Government faces legal challenge over Cumbria coal mine

The government has received backlash for the coal mine from environmental groups, MP’s and experts who say the demand for coal is declining.

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth has launched a legal challenge against the government over a new coal mine in Cumbria approved in December.

The group was one of two main opponents against the development at a planning inquiry in September 2021 and is set to file the claim later this month.

The claimants will focus on the climate impacts of the coal mines, as it’s estimated that it could release 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. This is incompatible with the government’s climate targets.

burned firewood

Another opponent to the development at the inquiry, South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) is also considering legal action. The group has already sent a pre-action letter to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove laying out the grounds for their claim.

Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully.

‘Michael Gove has failed to account for the significant climate impacts of this mine, or how the much-needed move to green steelmaking will be impacted by its approval.

‘The steel industry is under no illusion that it must decarbonise if we’re to meet our climate goals, which calls into doubt the long-term viability of the mine and the jobs used to justify it.’

Friends of the Earth says green jobs could be created in the area through a programme to ensure every home is insulated which could lower energy bills and lower emissions.

The organisation has already won a legal challenge against the government, alongside Good Law Project and Client Earth, in a landmark case which found the Net Zero Strategy to be ‘unlawful’.

Toru continued: ‘With the world facing a climate emergency, we shouldn’t have to take this challenge to court. Any sensible government should be choosing to leave coal in the ground, and accelerating the transition to a safe, clean and sustainable future.’

Photo by Andrey Andreyev


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