Cumbrian coal mine: the wrong decision for the economy, the environment and global climate diplomacy


Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “The UK Government’s decision to approve the Cumbrian coal mine to provide coal for steel production is deeply disappointing from an industrial strategy, market signal, environmental and diplomatic perspective. The UK has clearly embarked on a transition towards net zero emissions and heavy industries such as steel and cement are moving away from high carbon fuels. Several steel makers in the UK and globally are now making plans to move away from coal and instead manufacture green steel through cleaner technologies such as electric arc furnaces powered by renewable energy or through hydrogen direct reduction [1]. Those are the technologies and globally relevant supply chains that the UK should seek to gain a competitive advantage in and where new and secure jobs can be created across the country and for the long-term.”

Nick Molho added: “A year ago, the UK Government led a concerted campaign to encourage a wide range of businesses and investors to accelerate efforts to reduce their own emissions by encouraging them to sign up to the United Nations’ Race to Zero Campaign [2]. Giving the go-ahead to a new open coal mine in the UK a year later sends a very confusing signal to the business and investment community and is not at all consistent with the actions of a Government seeking to de-risk and accelerate investment flows towards low carbon technologies to hit net zero.”

Nick Molho added: “This decision makes little sense from an environmental perspective, especially given the likelihood that 85% of the coal will be exported to Europe. Estimates suggest that the new coal mine will increase UK emissions by 0.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, more than what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has projected for all open UK coal mines annually out to 2050. The CCC has made it clear that the mine would increase global emissions and make a serious dent in the UK’s increasingly tight carbon budgets [3].”

Nick Molho concluded: “This decision will unfortunately damage the UK’s global reputation in the climate diplomacy space. Opening a new coal mine a year after leading a push to phase out coal at COP26 in Glasgow really undermines the UK’s international credibility and the impact of its future diplomatic initiatives. “

[1] See transcript of parliamentary evidence session with the steel industry ( and Times interview with British Steel former Chief Executive:
[2] UNFCCC Race to Zero Campaign: Who’s in Race to Zero? | UNFCCC
[3] The Climate Change Committee, January 2021, Letter: Deep Coal Mining in the UK