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Our letter to the Prime Minister: stop the new Cumbrian coal mine

4th February 2021

CPRE, the countryside charity, has joined with over 70 organisations big and small to say to Boris Johnson that plans for the new Whitehaven coal mine are unacceptable. Here’s the full text of our letter.

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

4 February 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to raise some very serious concerns about the decision to proceed with the Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria.

As you know, the UK founded and co-chairs the Powering Past Coal Alliance and is President of this year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Given that our credibility, as host of the largest global climate talks since the signing of the Paris Agreement is at stake, it is mystifying that the government has decided not to intervene in the approval of the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years. This decision will make it much harder to fulfil the ambitions of the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

Alok Sharma MP, the COP president, when questioned before a Commons business select committee clearly understood that the mine approval was an embarrassment. The Climate Change Committee has urged the government to reconsider, 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.

New jobs need to be created, including in renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternatives to using coking coal in the steel industry. You have rightly talked about a green industrial revolution. The UK must lead the way with low-carbon technologies, rather than looking to the polluting industries of the past. It is crucial to support West Cumbria communities in their transition to genuinely sustainable employment. Research shows that concerted action and investment in green industries in the region would provide significantly more than the 500 jobs promised by the new mine.

The Climate Change Committee has said all coal, including coking coal, should be phased out by 2035. The government therefore risks allowing the creation of a stranded asset as the mine may be required to close only a few years after it opens. It also sends the wrong signal to all those countries who want to hold on to coal from Poland to China.

Furthermore, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP’s reasoning that it is a ‘local issue’ undermines UK leadership: it is widely understood that climate change and air pollution related to burning coal is a global problem.

MHCLG could still review the decision not to call in the mine because Cumbria County Council is yet to issue the final decision notice and subsequent planning permission. The grounds for this, including new information since the 6th January decision not to call it in, would be:

The Planning Unit had not had a chance to consider new information, notably the CCC letter of 29th January;

The national controversy caused by the mine, in particular since the 6th January decision – a stated reason for call-in is if it may “give rise to substantial cross-boundary or national controversy”;

If it involves the interests of foreign Governments – which is the case, given conflicts with COP26 diplomacy;

It “may conflict with national policies on important matters” – another stated reason for call-in – specifically climate change, as has been acknowledged both by the Chair of the Climate Change Committee and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Given that Cumbria County Council could issue its final decision notice very soon, time is of the essence. We believe strongly that the best way to resolve the issue would be for Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP to call in the decision, and refer the matter to a public inquiry. Reversing this decision would help restore confidence in the UK government’s climate leadership both internationally and at home.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Vickerstaff, UK lead,

Siobhan Harley, Campaigns Director, 38 Degrees

Andy Atkins, CEO, A Rocha UK

Gillian Kelly, Chair of Trustees, Ambleside Action For A Future

Dr Tony Gent, Chief Executive Officer, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust

Paul Pacifico, CEO, Association of Independent Music

Lucy Bywater, Chair, Bedfordshire Climate Change Forum

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy, CAFOD

Claire James, Campaigns Coordinator, Campaign against Climate Change

Laurie Lee, CEO, Care International

Peter Tyldesley, Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Alternative Technology

Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns and UK Advocacy, Christian Aid

James Thornton, CEO, ClientEarth

Ruth Balogh, Chair, Climate Emergency West Cumbria

Rachel Berger, Chair, Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon

Andy Atkins, Chair, Climate Sunday Initiative

Anne Harris, Campaigner, Coal Action Network

Revd Dr Kevin Snyman, Programme Officer, Commitment for Life, United Reformed Church

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive, CPRE The countryside charity

Karen Mitchell, CEO, Cumbria Action for Sustainability

Stephen Trotter, Chief Executive, Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Ellie Wyatt, Eco Action Families

Phil Macdonald, COO, Ember

Seán Mallon, Climate Change Specialist, Environmentally Conscious

Dr Shanon Shah, Director, Faith for the Climate

Jeffrey Newman, Emeritus Rabbi, Finchley Reform Synagogue

Miriam Turner & Hugh Knowles, Co-Executive Directors, Friends of the Earth England, Wales & Northern Ireland

Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive, Friends of the Lake District

Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now

Shaun Spiers, Executive director, Green Alliance

Deborah Tomkins and George Dow, Co-chairs, Green Christian

Graham Petersen, Secretary, Greener Jobs Alliance

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

Paul Chitnis, Director, Jesuit Missions

Alison Tickell, Director, Julie’s Bicycle

Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network

Adrian Ramsay, CEO, MCS Charitable Foundation

Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, Medact

Maddy Read Clarke, Campaign Director, Music Declares Emergency

Melissa Green, General Secretary, National Federation of Women’s Institutes

Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation

Andrew Simms, co-director, New Weather Institute

Dr David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL, Development Coordinator, North East Call to Action on Global Goverty and Climate Change

Jamie Drummond, Co-founder, ONE

Jacqueline Bourne, Founder Member, One World Voice

Sarah Hirom, Trustee, One World Week

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair, Operation Noah

Sam Nadel, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Oxfam GB

Carly Leonard, CEO, PECT

John Bodger, Chair, Penrith Action for Community Transition

Laura Clayson, Climate Change Campaigns Manager, People and Planet

Ian Dunn, CEO, Plantlife

Lauren MacCallum, General Manager, Protect Our Winters UK

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain

Rosanne Palmer-White, UK Director, Restless Development

Beccy Speight, CEO, RSPB

Kirsty McNeil, Executive Director – Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children

Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility

Craig Gamble Pugh, Co-Chair, Sheffield Climate Alliance.

Lindy Stone, Coordinator, Sheffield Friends of the Earth

Shane Holland FCMI FRSA, Executive Chairman, Slow Food in the UK (SFUK)

Jack Woodruff, Campaigns Representitive, Student Christian Movement

Chaitra Dinesh, National Director, Students for Global Health

Jamie Agombar, Executive Director, Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK)

Hugo Tagholm, CEO, Surfers Against Sewage

Henry Goodwin, Chairperson, Sustainable Carlisle.

Terry Sloan, Chair, Sustainable Keswick

Hugh Ellis, Director of Policy, TCPA

Paul Cook, Head of Advocacy, Tearfund

The Revd Margot R Hodson, Director of Theology and Education, The John Ray Initiative

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

John Bell, Officer, Transition Town Berkhamsted

Dr Alison Whybrow, Chair, Transition Town Kingston

UK Youth Climate Coalition

Ruth Balogh, Chair, West Cumbria and North Lakes Friends of the Earth

Richard Benwell, CEO, Wildlife and Countryside Link

Chris Holloway, Chair, WinACC

Kate Metcalf, Co-Director, Women’s Environmental Network

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs, Woodland Trust

Katrina Judge, Founder, Young Climate Warriors



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