Seventy-nine concerned groups have written to the Prime Minister to ask why plans for an off-shore coal mine in Whitehaven was not referred to an inquiry.
Landscape conservation charity Friends of the Lake District is among the group and wants to know why the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, decided not to put the proposal through the process.
He turned down the call for the Government to scrutinise Cumbria County Council’s decision to give West Cumbria Mining the go-ahead for its Woodhouse Colliery, saying it was a local issue.
But the 79 groups say he ignored the fact that carbon emissions are an international issue.
The Climate Change Committee, the UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change, wrote to the Government last week asking for this decision to be reconsidered, highlighting that the increase in emissions from this mine alone would amount to more emissions than it has projected for all open UK coal mines to 2050.
The planned mine off the coast of Whitehaven is for coking coal, used in the steel industry.
Currently, the UK imports the bulk of its coking coal.
The groups say in their letter to Boris Johnson, however: “The coal extracted would emit 420 million of tonnes of carbon dioxide over the mine’s lifetime, the equivalent of UK’s entire emissions in 2018.
“Jobs and growth will be a key focus as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic but we have a chance to build back better, prioritising clean, green industries with new jobs created in renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and finding alternatives to coking coal in the steel industry.
“The Government has rightly talked about a green industrial revolution, and Cumbria should be at the forefront of developing these clean, green industries and lead the way with low-carbon technologies, rather than perpetuating the polluting industries of the past.
“Steel manufacturers across the world are moving towards lower carbon manufacturing, and the Climate Change Committee says that there will be no place for coking coal in the UK after 2035, 14 years before the end of the planning permission for the mine.
“Of course it is crucial to support West Cumbria communities in their transition to genuinely sustainable employment, and Local Government Association research shows that concerted action and investment in green and low carbon energy industries in the region would provide significantly more than the 500 jobs promised by the new mine.”
Kate Willshaw, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District said: “Cumbria is a place filled with both natural beauty and a proud history of industrial innovation.
“It cannot be right that the birthplace of the conservation movement will be exporting its climate changing greenhouse gases right across the globe.
“We urge the Government to reconsider its position, and to put this planning decision through a Public Inquiry process in order to properly address the climate change issues.
“Making this decision at a national level would help to restore confidence in the UK Government’s climate leadership both internationally and at home in the months before COP26.”