Banks Mining Company appeals against the Government’s decision to reject its application to create a new, opencast coal mine, near Druridge Bay.
BACKGROUND: Banks Mining Company lodged an Appeal against the Government’s rejection of its application to create a new, opencast coal mine at Highthorn, near Druridge Bay, Northumberland, and this was heard at the High Court in London on 17th and 18th October, 2018.
As Banks’ barrister made clear, the main battle over the proposed opencast coal mine, near Druridge Bay, is being fought over its possible impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, which Sajid Javid, the then Communities Minister flagged up in his extraordinary decision overturning the recommendation of the Inspector whom he had himself appointed to conduct the Public Inquiry.
Note by David Golding: I wasn’t able to attend the hearing, but a comment of it can be read on the website of Coal Action Network.
Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, recently explained his company’s new focus on renewable energy with reference to climate change and the IPCC’s stark warnings, published on 8th October. He stated that (Saturday 20 Oct) “My absolute belief is that [industrial] organisations need to be at the forefront of that change [called for by the IPCC]. We can’t be part of the problem, we have to be part of the solution.”
How very different the approach of Banks Mining Company, which has taken the Government to court to try and overturn its rejection of their application to build a new, opencast coal mine within a stone’s throw of the beauty spot, Druridge Bay. Its head remains stuck in the sand more deeply than that of any ostrich! As a signatory of 2015’s Paris Agreement, the UK is both morally and legally bound to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase…to 1.5C” – an enormously challenging goal, which allows no latitude whatever for ‘carbon indulgence’. But Banks doesn’t seem to have noticed! Likewise, on 16th November last year, Claire Perry, the UK’s Climate Change Minister, declared that “The time for coal has passed”, when she launched the Government’s new ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ initiative. But this also seems to have passed Banks by, leaving it like an old record, where the needle is stuck in one of the grooves, playing the same old, tired tune, over and over again!
Nathalie Lieven QC, for the company, says that the Government’s decision was “plainly wrong”, but she ignores the message which approval of the mine would send to the country’s industry and finance – namely, that it’s still “business and usual – so carry on polluting”. But even more serious would be the damaging impact of this message abroad. John Ashton CBE, who served three Foreign Secretaries as Special Representative on Climate Change, told the Public Inquiry that: “The goal of UK climate diplomacy has been to accelerate the move away from fossil energy, and especially from unabated coal, across all the major economies… But the foundation for all effective diplomacy is action at home. If you do not walk your talk, those you seek to influence stop listening… If we were to press ahead with the development of new coal resources at home… we would be cutting our climate diplomacy off at the knees, and undermining our fundamental national interest in a successful global response to climate change.”
Just so – we have to “walk our talk”! In contrast, consent for any new coal mine here would serve as a ‘green light’ for further exploitation of this most polluting of fuels throughout the world. “The time for coal has passed”, stated Claire Perry. It has indeed – and so has the time when it was acceptable for us to treat the atmosphere like an open sewer into which we can discharge our pollution. It’s time for Banks to wake up and drag itself into the new, low carbon world.
David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL
Associate, Institute for Sustainability, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University; Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change.