Extraordinary moment Tory MP claims new coal mine won’t impact the climate

The new coal mine is estimated to emit the equivalent of 220 million tonnes of carbon dioxide

Guy Opperman discussing the new coal mine on Question Time

The Westminster government has given the go ahead for the first new coal mine in the UK for more than 30 years. The new mine – to be opened in Cumbria – is estimated to produce over 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

But employment minister Guy Opperman seems to have missed the memo. Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday evening, the Tory MP made the extraordinary claim that opening a new coal mine will have no impact on the climate.

In response to a question on the new coal mine, Opperman said, “The planning inspector made very very clear a couple of key points; this will have a neutral effect on climate change”.

Labour MP Lucy Powell was also on the show. She immediately rebutted Opperman’s claim, saying, “Your own independent climate change committee doesn’t say that.”

The host Fiona Bruce similarly questioned Opperman’s comments. She asked him, “as I understand it, they came to that conclusion on the basis of the carbon emissions you get from digging the coal out of the ground. What it doesn’t include is the carbon emissions from burning that coal. Is that right?”

Opperman would go on to brush the comment aside, eventually saying, “Bluntly, they are making the assertion – the independent planning inspector – that this is something that is carbon neutral, that it does not impact on climate change when you look at all the amelioration measures that they’re taking on the site.”

Lord Deben – chair of the Climate Change Committee – has reaffirmed Bruce’s question. He has said on the question of whether the coal mine would be ‘carbon neutral’, “They don’t count the burning of the coal,” and that, “We have no way of ensuring that is net zero.”

Following Opperman’s comments on Question Time, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told Left Foot Forward, “The Planning Inspectorate’s report counts emissions purely on the basis of coal being dug up, not coal being burned – which is beyond ludicrous, when the burning of that coal threatens to increase UK emissions by 0.4 million tonnes a year, equivalent to putting 200,000 cars on the road. The claim that this mine is ‘carbon neutral’ is for the birds – it’s time to kick out coal once and for all.”

According to the Climate Change Committee, the mine will emit the equivalent of 220 million tonnes of carbon dioxide throughout its 25-year lifespan.

Opposition parties have condemned the decision to open the coal mine.

Ed Miliband – Labour’s shadow climate change secretary has said, “A Labour government will leave no stone unturned in seeking to prevent the opening of this climate-destroying coalmine, and instead ensure we deliver the green jobs that people in Cumbria deserve.”

Adrian Ramsay, the Green Party of England and Wales’ co-leader has said, “The government’s environmental credentials are in tatters. Around the world, countries are striving to tackle the climate crisis by closing coal mines, yet here the government is opening one.”

He continued, “Global leadership must begin at home and we need to see a clear commitment from this government to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This means no new fossil fuel mining and a clear pathway to move rapidly away from oil, coal and gas in favour of renewables and a nationwide programme of home insulation to cut both emissions and energy bills. 

“The mine will not be ‘carbon neutral’ as previously claimed and its coking coal is not essential to the future of steel production.”

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has said, “After being dragged kicking and screaming to permit more on-shore wind they’ve now lost all their goodwill by allowing this deeply damaging coal mine.

“Liberal Democrats have long called for this project to be cancelled and we hope the government will reverse their decision.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Twitter screengrab

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