Called in, at last

Well, what a rollercoaster we’ve all been on over the Cumbria coal mine. But news that the Government has finally agreed, albeit kicking and screaming to call it in for a central government decision is very welcome. Its position, suggesting it was a local issue to be determined by local councillors, had, of course, become completely untenable as the scale of the emissions began to grab headlines across the world. The world’s top climate scientists made it absolutely clear that developing a new coal mine is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis, and would undermine the UK’s leadership of the COP 26 climate summit in November.  There’s no ambiguity in their warnings – they’re telling us that going ahead with the mine would be catastrophic, and would threaten our children’s future.

And yet, several Tory MPs are furious at the decision, with one, Mark Jenkinson, saying the government has “bowed to climate terrorists”. Such dismissal of the world’s most respected climate scientists, and those who heed their dire warnings, represents a shocking rejection of science and the truth.

The science is clear. The world is on track for the breakdown of our climate, our ecosystems, and therefore civilisation itself. We have to work back from that reality. We can’t avoid that outcome if we carry on with business-almost-as-usual, as we are doing. We can’t continue to build coal mines. We must, and we can, find another way. The thing that stops us is a failure of imagination among our leaders.

We desperately need jobs in Cumbria, and we need those jobs to support the rapid transition to Net Zero carbon. Thankfully, and with perfect timing, Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) has shown us how that can happen in its new report, ‘The potential for green jobs in Cumbria’. It finds that 9000 green jobs could be created here over 15 years, with half of those in West Cumbria. These far outweigh those promised from the mine, and will also reduce people’s fuel bills, reduce air pollution and increase healthy travel, such as cycling. But these jobs can only become a reality if there’s the political will to make them happen, and that’s what’s so lacking.  

Instead of desperately trying to send us backwards down a mine shaft, Mark Jenkinson and his colleagues should be straight on the phone to CAfS to see how they can help bring about the transition to a green economy and all the jobs that come with it. The Government has promised to level up and to invest in a green recovery so please, Mr Jenkinson, speak to Boris Johnson and demand that he commits to investing in Cumbria. Cumbria has a long history of being neglected, but that doesn’t need to be our future too. We have the people, the resources and our spectacular landscape to change our story for good.