Johnson's first comment on proposed Cumbrian coal mine

On the first day of the Conference of Parties Climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow Boris Johnson for the first time has said that he is not in favour of a new coal mine in the UK.

Exactly what Boris Johnson said can be heard here:

Johnson has since reiterated the statement that he doesn't want more coal mines but fails to acknowledge that as the Prime Minister he can stop it happening, while putting too much faith in carbon capture and storage to enable oil and gas projects in the UK.

Tommy Greene tells the story in Left Foot Forward.

"Campaigners seize on Boris Johnson’s opening day coal comments at COP26

'A new coal mine in Cumbria would result in approximately an additional 9 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released every year to 2049 and so is unacceptable'.

Coal mine

Environmental groups have urged Boris Johnson to show he is serious about climate change by axing plans for a new coal mine in west Cumbria, after he appeared to signal opposition to the scheme.

The use of coal in energy production and industrial processes has long been set to occupy one of the highest-priority positions on the agenda at the Cop26 UN climate talks, billed as ‘last chance saloon’ to keep global warming within the relatively-manageable levels of 1.5C that scientists forecast.

Yet, critics say, the UK government’s attempts to facilitate ambitious new international pacts around fossil fuel divestment have been complicated by the protracted battle over what would be the UK’s first new deep coal mine in more than 30 years near Whitehaven, along the Cumbrian coast.

Its hopes of positioning itself as a climate leader internationally have also been undermined by the bitter row that has emerged from the mining application, which has placed ‘Red Wall’ Tory MPs at odds with some of the government’s leading ministers and chief climate scientists.

After having waved through the plans – citing the importance of ‘local’ concerns – Boris Johnson’s administration was pushed into calling a public inquiry earlier this year, following weeks of pressure from civil society and from quarters within his own government.

He has also infuriated former mining communities when he claimed during the summer that pit closures under Margaret Thatcher had given the UK a “big early start” in the fight against climate change.

But, this morning, the UK Prime Minister for the first time indicated that he was personally opposed to the proposals to extract around 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical (or coking) coal from underneath the Irish seabed each year, in a project that could run until 2049.

“I’m not in favour of more coal,” he told The BBC. “But it is not a decision for me, it is a decision for the planning authorities.”

The planning inspector presiding over the Cumbrian application is due to publish his recommendations coming out of the four-week-long inquiry that was eventually held into the proposed scheme in September.

But, contrary to Johnson’s suggestion, the final decision rests with Whitehall and will be handed down by the minister for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove.

Consequently, environmental organisations campaigning against the controversial project in west Cumbria have sought to hold Johnson’s feet to the fire in light of the comments.

Anne Harris, from the Coal Action Network, told Left Foot Forward such a move would be key to avoiding further international embarrassment for the UK and would “indicate the government is serious about tackling climate change.”

She said: “A new coal mine in Cumbria would result in approximately an additional 9 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released every year to 2049 and so is unacceptable.

“Boris Johnson’s comment today that the proposed Cumbrian coking coal mine shouldn’t go ahead is a really positive step. However, the Prime Minister can stop this application from going ahead by requiring that all Government departments implement their own Government’s Net Zero commitment in all decisions, which is a logical step.

“It would indicate the government is serious about tackling climate change. For example, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities could include Net-Zero as the threshold for any new planning consideration in Michael Gove’s upcoming Planning Bill.

“That would avoid the next coal mine application embarrassment for the government.”

Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, stressed that an exemption could not be made for coal with industrial end use after a series of proposals to extract thermal coal for UK power stations were defeated last year. It is thought that around 15% of the coal dug up by West Cumbria Mining Ltd (WCM) would go towards domestic steelmaking, with the remainder to be exported.

“Actions speak louder than words,” campaigner Tony Bosworth told Left Foot Forward.

“If Boris Johnson is not in favour of more coal, why did it take his government so long to ‘call in’ planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria?

“The prime minister’s push for an early end to coal must cover industrial uses too, not just power generation. The climate doesn’t differentiate between the two.”

He also blasted Johnson for suggesting the upcoming decision simply lay with local bodies or planning authorities – a position that saw the government threatened with legal action earlier this year.

He said: “It’s not local planning authorities who will decide if the Cumbria coal mine is built, as Boris Johnson appears to believe.

“The final decision will rest with his government, based on the evidence presented at the recent public inquiry, which overwhelmingly showed permission should be refused.”

WCM has been contacted for comment.

Tommy Greene is a freelance journalist" [copied from an article on Left Foot Forward]

Share now:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Never miss an update! Sign up to our Newsletter


Hearing date set for proposed West Cumbria Coal mine

The legal challenges against the government’s approval of a new coal mine off the coast of Cumbria will be heard in London on the 16th to 18th July.

Support local campaign group resist Bedwas coal mine

Mining company, ERI Ltd, is applying to mine nearly half a million tonnes of coal from two coal tips dumped in Caerphilly, South Wales by the same mining industry last time it operated in the area.

Bedwas coal tips: Key facts and impacts

Mining company, ERI Ltd, is applying to mine nearly half a million tonnes of coal from two coal tips dumped in Caerphilly, South Wales, by the mining industry last time it operated in the area. It’s vital we stop this shameless attempt to exploit the mess left behind by the mining industry to justify yet more mining. If the coal tip mining were to go ahead, it would…

Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine quietly becomes a massive reservoir

Coal Action Network’s drone footage on Monday 11th March raised the alarm bell about the rising water levels. With this footage, a local resident informed Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council of the rising water levels, only to be told…

Global Week of Action: Putting Insurance Industry in the Hot Seat

The insurance industry found itself in the spotlight last week as a Global Week of Action blossomed across the world. From February 27th to March 3rd 2024, a wave of protests, both online and in the streets, swept through the doors of insurance giants, demanding accountability over their support for polluters and decisive action on climate change.

Protesters walk with banner reading 'Insure Our Futures Not Polluters'

Success: Yet another major insurer rules out coal and oil projects

After a week of peaceful protest around the world, alongside hundreds of groups, our efforts have paid off. Yet another leading insurance company, Probitas, has ruled out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

Bedwas coal tip: a new frontier for coal in South Wales?

‘Energy Recovery Investments Ltd’ is proprosing to extract the coal from 3 large coal tips in Bedwas, Caerphilly, South Wales. The company claims that it would use some of the sales of the coal to restore those coal tips later. The coal tips lie above a coal seam, which the company claims it would coincidentally have to dig into to create ‘lagoons’ for processing the coal from the coal tips…

Charges dropped for activists blocking Ffos-y-fran coal mine

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all charges against the four Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists who blockaded the entrance to the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine, last summer with a pink boat. While removing the immediate burden of legal confrontation for the defendants, the decision has left a “crater of unfinished business” in the fight for climate justice and accountability for local residents…

Coal clings on in Aberpergwm appeal

Citing different grounds to the High Court, the Court of Appeal has nevertheless found against our appeal. The Court of Appeal judges disagreed with the judge in the High Court, and decided that current statute limits Welsh Ministers to only deciding whether a new conditional licence may be issued…


Share now:

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x