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Will government stand by its pledge to wind down coal-fired power generation?

Government has pledged that all UK coal-fired power generation must end by 2025 and it accounted for less than 7% of UK power generation last year. That helped to push down UK carbon emissions to levels last seen in 1890 and to cut greenhouse gases faster than most other developed economies.  

It is startling – in view of the government’s pledge – to learn that coal is still being imported from Russia, Colombia and the United States. GEGB engineers in the 70s complained about the imports of inefficient ‘dirty’ coal from Eastern Europe whilst good quality British coal was being stockpiled.

Muir Dean – one of many open cast mines closed in 2016 

It is even more startling to read that a local coal mining company, Banks Group, which mothballed its Rusha mine in Scotland early because it couldn’t get a good enough price, has applied to extract coal from land behind the sand dunes of Druridge Bay (below). The social, economic and environmental objections received were deemed ‘insignificant’ by Justice Ouseley in the High Court.

The planning application submitted by Banks Group was approved by Northumberland County Council in July 2016. In September the plans were put on hold subject to a government inquiry. In March 2018, the proposal was rejected by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, citing among other environmental reasons the “very considerable negative impact” the opencasting would have on greenhouse gas emissions and on climate change, as well as on landscape and heritage assets.

The high court over-ruled Sajid Javid’s decision in November and James Brokenshire, the minister for communities and local government, is to re-examine the application.

Gavin Styles, managing director of Banks, had described Mr Javid’s decision as perverse and political: “the government . . . has now demonstrated that it would prefer to source the coal that is essential for a variety of important industries across the UK from Russia or the US, rather than support substantial investment and job creation plans in our region.”

Anne Harris of Coal Action Network, which is fighting Banks’s plans across the north-east, said: “If James Brokenshire approves this scheme at Highthorn, he’s showing the government has no intention of meaningfully following through on the 2025 coal phase-out. It would mean the concerns and opposition of people in the area are being ignored for a coal company that’s trying to grab resources and run.”

All sides have submitted their case to Brokenshire, who will begin his deliberations on Friday.





Climate change: the cartoonist wins the day


Somerset levels

Somerset levels

Flooding and storms in UK – no evidence of climate change

Lord LawsonLord Lawson is quoted as saying,” There is “no evidence” that climate change is leading to more extreme weather. Earlier he said he is ‘open-minded on the contested science of global warming’ but deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated. He founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation, criticised for engaging in political lobbying and refusing to reveal its major funders, despite being given charitable status.

Flooding and storms in UK – clear signs of climate change

lord sternSo wrote Lord Stern, the former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank, Chair of the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and leader of a team which produced the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change. In 2007 he said: “Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay.”

The cartoonist cuts through the arguments:

 GWhoax (2)

He implies that we should get on with the measures advocated by Stern, because they will reduce pollution of air, land and water – and lead to ‘green economic growth’.

See more on that tomorrow from Arup, UNEP and Jonathon Porritt.