Coal Mine (Whitehaven)
Coal Mine (Whitehaven)

Thank you for writing to me regarding the proposed plans to approve a new coal mine in Whitehaven. 

I absolutely agree with you that approving this mine would be a step backwards and therefore I stand firmly against this Government decision. There is no response to the climate crisis that does not confront the problem of fossil fuel supply head-on. 

Once again this Government has proven it is not taking the climate crisis seriously enough.  For too long climate change has been viewed as tomorrow’s problem – an issue that will affect future generations. The urgency for change has become strikingly evident, in light of the recent extreme flooding across Europe and the extreme heat that has been experienced in Pakistan and Canada. I fear that without a substantial change to our attitudes towards fossil fuels, these events will become much more regular with increasingly disastrous consequences.

As I am sure you are aware the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said opening the Whitehaven mine would “increase global emissions and have an appreciable impact on the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets”. It further states that awarding planning permission until 2049 would commit the UK to emissions from coking coal, for which there could be no domestic use after 2035. And with the International Energy Agency saying that we need no new mines if the world is to reach net zero by 2050, approving the mine would also send the wrong signal to the world ahead of COP27 later this year.

Supporters of the project argue that it will provide an important source of coking coal for the UK steel industry and reduce Russian imports. However, senior figures in the steel sector have made clear that this is not the case. Of the two potential customers for this coal in the UK, British Steel has said coal from the mine is not suitable for it to use, while Tata Steel, which may or may not use a small amount, does not use any Russian coking coal. Around 85% of the coal from the mine will be exported to mainland Europe – and even this is doubtful in the longer term, with the major players in the European steel industry moving away from reliance on coking coal.

The truth is that this mine will not create secure jobs, will not help our steel industry and is terrible for the fight against climate change. It will also do nothing to fix the cost-of-living crisis and will not reduce our reliance on Russian coal.

If the Government is serious about tackling the climate emergency and protecting our energy security, rather than approving the continued extraction of one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, it must instead rule out a new coal mine, support our steelmakers to decarbonise and back a green energy sprint and the good green jobs of the future.

I’m really proud the Labour Party has a policy for a Green Economic Recovery, with £30 billion in planned capital investment brought forward as part of a rapid stimulus package to support up to 400,000 new, clean jobs in manufacturing and other key sectors. This will work to accelerate investment in clean projects such as energy efficiency, flood prevention, offshore wind, cycling and walking infrastructure and the electric vehicle charging network would help to create secure, stable employment in every corner of the country right now. We have an opportunity to be the leading light on tackling climate change, by introducing bold and forward-thinking green policies.

It is therefore vital that we reach an international agreement on a managed and fair phase-out of fossil fuels across the globe. Unfortunately, I believe that plans such as the development of the Cambo oil field and Whitehaven coal mine will instead undermine the effort to foster international action on this issue. 

Thank you once again for contacting me. Unfortunately due to my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, I am unable to sign any EDMs. However, with the decision on the mine having been delayed from 7 July, I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts to press the Government on this issue.

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