John Knight's February 2021 Talking Politics column for Macclesfield Express

9 February 2021

Humanitarian charities and green groups are appalled at the government giving the go-ahead for a new coalmine here in the North West. 

They are calling on the prime minister to send the decision to a public inquiry; a change of heart would “help restore confidence in the UK government’s climate leadership, both internationally and at home”. 

This decision is a national embarrassment, with the UK hosting COP26 international climate-change talks later this year. 

Exactly a year ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the deadline for the phase-out of coal from Britain’s energy system would be brought forward to 2024, under a government drive to reach net-zero carbon emissions. 

But the government has refused to block a 2019 decision by Cumbria County Councillor to give the green light to the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years, despite government pledges to rapidly decarbonise the economy. 

Supporters say it will produce coking coal for the UK's steel industry, and save on imports. But the government's own advisors, the Climate Change Committee, said 85% of the Cumbrian coal would be exported and in any case the UK steel industry needs to be using clean technologies by 2035. They have urged the government to reconsider, highlighting that the increase in emissions from this mine alone would amount to more than projected for all open UK coal mines to 2050. 

James Hansen, a leading climate expert and NASA’s former chief scientist, has written to Mr Johnson warning him he would be vilified around the world if the new mine went ahead. 

Even the prime minister’s own father has told the BBC the decision was a “massive mistake”, asking “How can we ask other countries to bring in their climate change-reduction programmes when we are reopening the whole argument here in Britain?”.

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