Why hasn't the UK helped former coal mining communities?
The EU is devoting €100bn to measures to promote a ‘Just Transition’, much of which will be spent on helping regional economies previously reliant on coal production.
The European Commission said the money would be spent re-training workers, helping small business set up in coal-reliant areas and supporting investments in the ‘clean energy transition’ (insulating homes for example).
A 2019 European Commission briefing had identified the UK as one of the nations most likely to suffer from the transition away from coal. Mines have closed recently in Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire. However, as a non-member-state, the UK will no longer be eligible for support.
In the UK, on the other hand, Margaret Thatcher’s government lost 80% of mining jobs with no plans for replacement jobs in mining communities.
The last deep coal mine closed in 2016 and the government aims to close down all the UK’s coal-fired power stations by 2025. Unlike the EU though, the UK currently has no plans for a ‘just transition’ away from fossil fuels.
They have been criticised for the this by the Trade Union Congress. In July 2019, they said that if decarbonisation was left solely to the market, it could repeat “the failed neoliberal approach of the 1980s” when coal mine closures devastated communities.
To avoid this, the TUC said the government should set up a cross-party commission on long-term energy strategy.
This commission should involve affected workers, unions, industries and consumers and plan for a just transition to clean energy.
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