Yesterday afternoon the UK government announced its approval for the development and operation of the proposed Woodhouse deep coal mine in Cumbria. The first new coal mine in the UK for 30 years.
I have previously written in here on environmental and climate change matters and I’m sure you’d expect me to say that this decision is an appalling development. But it’s worse than that. It’s truly catastrophic. Hyperbole? I’ll explain my perspective.
I could not write this article last night because I was just too angry. This morning I, along with millions of others across the UK and world, am sitting in the cold, layered up, and trying not to put the heating on. Cost of living, yes, to a certain extent. Trying to reduce my personal contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is, for me, at least just as important a reason. But why should I bother? My efforts pale into insignificance when 9 million tonnes of CO2 will be produced each year by this new mine. (That’s the same mass as 9,000,000,000 bags of sugar by the way to put it in more understandable terms).
But why do I say it’s catastrophic? Well, because it sends a clear message that capitalism and money will take priority over environmental issues every time. And if a supposed first world developed country can continue to increase its environmental damage for political and social reasons, what possible reason should developing countries have to reduce their impact. The decision of the UK government shatters any pretence the UK had to its claim of being a climate leader.
The decision is now old news. It does not feature on the BBC news web front page this morning, and only one of the national papers (the Guardian) has any mention of it on their front pages. I believe that many people have been dulled, and misled, into not appreciating the significance of this new mine
Not some plucky British company
But let’s look at a couple of aspects that have not been reported.
- West Cumbria Mining (WCM) are the company developing and operating the new mine. This is not some plucky British company; it’s a massive privately owned Australian mining company 82% owned by EMR Capital Investment; a venture capital company based in the Cayman Islands.
- The mine’s produce will not be used to “serve steel manufacturing in the UK and reducing the UK’s dependency on imports”. British steel has said that due to the high sulphur content within the mine’s product it cannot use the coke produced. 85% of the mine’s output is expected to be exported.
But it will bring employment to an area of high social deprivation? The mine will lead to 500 jobs in total. WCM have stated that 80% of these jobs will go to local people. So that’s just 400 local jobs. Of course, every job is important but for the UK government to claim this is a primary driver is ridiculous. The local population support has been gained through political and misleading bribery and once again, real, sustainable, and meaningful local investment has been withheld.
Every climate group in the UK, and elsewhere considers the decision to be dreadful. The head of the UK Climate Change Commission (Lord Deben, who many of us still know as John Gummer) has spoken out against it, as has just about every climate scientist. Even Alok Sharma (the UK government spokesman on climate matters) has said it’s a bad decision; although you’ll notice that he hasn’t resigned his position…he is of course still a Tory.
What can we do? Well, firstly are you motivated to do anything? I beseech you, please, to continue your own initiatives and actions to prevent environmental and climate damage. The mine is not yet open and the local, national and international objections and protests will continue. Direct action is a certainty and I for one will be applauding and supporting such action. Yesterday I was depressed. Today I am remotivated.
They think it’s all over? Not a chance, the battle has just begun.