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Rethink planned Cumbrian coal mine, leading church figures urge Government

16 December 2022


Banners outside the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, south of Whitehaven, from when the plans were first mooted in September last year

Banners outside the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, south of Whitehaven, from when the plans were first mooted in September last year

MORE than 450 church leaders and Christian campaigners have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for a reversal of the Government’s agreement to open a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The mine near Whitehaven, which would be the first in Britain for more than 30 years, was given the go-ahead last week, but the campaigners say that it threatens the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5ºC, and are considering a legal challenge.

The signatories include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, and the Church’s lead bishop on the environment, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher. Other supporters include the Roman Catholic Church’s environmental lead, Bishop John Arnold, and the heads of Nonconformist churches, the Salvation Army, and Quakers in Britain.

They acknowledge that Cumbria needs investment, but write: “The Government is supporting a dying industry instead of securing sustainable green jobs for the long-term. Every pound of investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry.

“Coal from this mine will continue to heat up the planet, pollute the atmosphere, and most severely impact those in the world’s poorest countries who have done the least to cause the climate crisis. We lament this great injustice.”

The letter is also addressed to the Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, who approved the new pit. It quotes a 2018 lecture he gave to the Christian think tank Theos in which he said: “Christians are called to remember their rightful place within Creation — and the vast web of life it created — and their responsibility to protect and defend it.” They urge the Government to “practise what Mr Gove preached”.

The plea was co-ordinated by the Young Christian Climate Network. Its campaign lead, Dr Chris Manktelow, said: “As young people who want a better future for everyone living on this planet, we were deeply concerned about the approval. We hope that the Government will listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor and consider the consequences of its actions.”

The Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, who chairs the Christian environmental charity Operation Noah, said: “Opening a coal mine when the world must cut greenhouse-gas emissions almost in half by 2030 is arguably the least conservative thing this Conservative Government could do.”

And Sophie Powell, the UK advocacy lead for Christian Aid, accused the Government of “trashing the legacy of its own COP26 climate summit in Glasgow”.

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