Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green party MP has accused Rishi Sunak’s government of committing “a climate crime against humanity” by approving a “toxic” new coal mine in Cumbria.
A host of other critics have railed against the decision by Levelling-up secretary Michael Gove to approve the mine, calling it “shameful” and “a pathetic failure of leadership.”
The approval comes just one year after the UK government campaigned at COP26 to “consign coal to history”.
The £165 million deep coal mine – the UK’s first for over 30 years – will employ around 500 workers and produce coal required for steel making, most of which will be exported.
Gove claims the Woodhouse Colliery mine near Whitehaven – which will produce an estimated 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year – will have an “overall neutral effect on climate change”.
He said the “likely amount of coal used in steel making would be broadly the same with or without the development of the proposed mine”.
The Telegraph reports the decision is likely to face legal challenge from climate activists. Lord Deben, the government’s own senior climate advisor had previously warned such a decision would be “absolutely indefensible”.
The Guardian reports that critics have slammed today’s announcement as “cynically timed to placate Tory MPs unhappy with the government for ending the moratorium on new onshore wind projects, which was confirmed 24 hours before.”
Lucas welcomed the decision about onshore wind farms but is apoplectic about allowing a new coal mind, calling the decision “toxic”, short sighted and a missed opportunity.
Lucas tweeted: “Instead of backing 1000s of green jobs & sustainable, long-term economic revival, Govt has backed a climate-busting, backward-looking, stranded asset coal mine. The decision to greenlight this mine is a climate crime against humanity – & we must challenge it every step of the way”.
She added: “Climate-wrecking emissions; unwanted by steel industry; stranded asset within a few years. This will be a toxic, costly & useless dump by 2030. Cumbria needs lower bills, more jobs & economic revival – a coal mine won’t deliver them.”
Friends of the Earth said the “appalling decision” is a “misguided and deeply damaging mistake” while Labour MP Zarah Sultana said the emissions from the coal mine “will be equivalent to 200,000 extra cars on our roads every year.
“The Tories again show they put the fossil fuel industry before people and planet. Shameful”, Sultana tweeted.
Tim Farron, former leader of the Lib Dems called it a “ridiculous and dreadful” decision, adding: “Climate change is our biggest earthly threat, yet the Tories want to dig up and burn more fossil fuels. What a pathetic failure of leadership.”
Writer, broadcaster and activist George Monbiot said it “testifies to the power of legacy industries over our politics” that are “constantly dragging us back into the age we are trying to escape.
“It reminds us that, where the protection of the living planet is concerned, what counts is the bad things you stop doing, not just the good things you start doing. Solar panels will not magic away the emissions from that coal.”
The decision comes on the day the UN secretary general António Guterres said “humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction” through “our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth”.
Tweeting from the UN COP15 summit on biodiversity, Guterres urged world “leaders to adopt and deliver an ambitious peace pact with nature – and deliver a green, healthy future for all.”
Greenpeace’s petition to Rishi Sunak to “stop plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria now and commit to end the era of coal in the UK” has so far garnered more than 245,000 signatures.
“We have to fight this,” said Greenpeace.