Pro-Coal MP Appointed to Lead Influential Cross-Party Environment Group

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Original article by Phoebe Cooke and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

Conservative MP Trudy Harrison. Credit: Justin Goff/UK Government (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Conservatives accused of a “stitch up” as Trudy Harrison replaces Green Tory Chris Skidmore.

A Tory MP who backed the UK’s first new coal mine in over 30 years has been elected to chair the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on environment.

Desk-banging and jeering were heard in the House of Commons committee room on Wednesday night as lawmakers voted in Trudy Harrison, who represents Copeland in West Cumbria – where the proposed mine in Whitehaven is located. 

Harrison replaces former Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, who resigned from the Commons in January in protest at the government’s move to issue new North Sea Oil and gas licences.

The Copeland MP’s selection was welcomed on social media by the all-party group, which tweeted: “We look forward to working with Trudy as we continue to provide an ambitious, cross-party voice for climate and nature in Parliament.”

Around 40 MPs and peers elected Harrison in the raucous voting session, which was open to all members of the Commons and Lords. 

DeSmog understands that a large number of Conservatives turned out to sway the vote in Harrison’s favour, with several people in the room reporting a frenetic atmosphere. “Hordes of Tories” were said to outnumber Labour MPs, many of whom were running late and barred from entry.

“They clearly felt it a point of principle that they keep control of the chair, regardless who the candidate was – the whole thing was a stitch-up,” a source said, adding: “I think if the public saw how things really work here they would be horrified.”

All-party parliamentary groups have no formal role in Parliament but can often act as an influential forum for debate, and also produce reports, and make policy recommendations. The chair is a pivotal role, tasked with providing direction to the secretariat – the body that formally runs the APPG – as well as leading on the execution of its agenda. 

The appointment of a pro-coal MP in this role comes after a week of shattered climate pledges from both main Westminster parties. On Thursday, the Labour Party announced it would scrap its commitment to spend £28 billion a year on green investments, days after it was reported the Conservatives are poised to ditch a mechanism that could slash emissions from domestic heating.

In January, DeSmog revealed energy secretary Claire Coutinho had accepted thousands of pounds from Michael Hintze, one of the early backers of the UK’s main climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. A member of the group’s board was also appointed to a parliamentary committee on climate change.

“Slowly, slowly, fossil fuel interests are taking over our institutions,” Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project told DeSmog. 

Alice Harrison, head of fossil fuels campaigning at Global Witness, said: “it seems the new chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment is also a big fan of coal. The Conservatives want to take us back to the 19th century.”

Coal mine controversy

Harrison, who served as an environment minister until November last year, advocated passionately for the proposed mine in Whitehaven as it became a political flashpoint in discussions over the UK’s commitment to net zero. 

At the 2021 planning inquiry she described the coal as an “environmentally friendly” domestic source for steel. She characterised opposition to the mine as “simply gesture politics”, adding that the coal would help “build the technologies powering us to net zero”.

Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove finally approved plans for the mine in 2022, but it remains deeply controversial. 

Coal is the most polluting fossil fuel, releasing more carbon dioxide than oil or gas when burnt. It also produces toxic elements like mercury, arsenic and soot, which contribute to air pollution. If it went ahead, the mine would emit nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 15,000 tonnes of methane a year.

Despite the green light, the mine still only has four percent of the funding required to operate, according to campaigners. A number of legal challenges are also pending.

Scenarios laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make it clear that global coal use has to collapse to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees and avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. This week, it was reported that global heating had for the first time  averaged more than this temperature over a 12-month period.

Harrison, like other supporters of the mine in Whitehaven, has argued that the “coking” coal from this mine is suitable for use by the UK steel industry. But industry bosses have said that the Cumbrian coal is too high in sulphur, which rules it out for use  in British and European steelworks. 

West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the project, claims the project will create around 500 jobs. However, Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said the government was giving the false hope of jobs for political reasons. The jobs, he said, would be short term because the mine’s business case “didn’t stack up”.

Anne Harris from Coal Action Network told DeSmog: “This appointment makes a mockery of the Environment APPG and shows that this government can never be trusted with this enormous crisis facing humanity.

“In supporting a new coal mine in Cumbria, Harrison is in a minority, and out of touch with the full impacts of climate change and how fossil fuels cause it. It’s a lie to say the proposed coal mine in West Cumbria would be anything other than a climate disaster.”

The all-party parliamentary group exists to “strengthen the influence of parliamentarians on public policy and public debate on the environment, and to assist parliamentarians by improving their access to specialist information.”

Prior to its latest meeting, the Environment APPG had 25 officers (MPs and peers) who participated in its work. These included Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Shadow Minister for Energy Security Alan Whitehead, Liberal Democrat energy and climate spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, and former Labour environment minister Barry Gardiner. 

Harrison, and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero did not respond to requests for comment. The APPG for Environment declined to comment.

Original article by Phoebe Cooke and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

Rishi Sunak offers huge fossil fuel subsidies to develop fossil fuel extraction in UK.
Rishi Sunak offers huge fossil fuel subsidies to develop fossil fuel extraction in UK.
Continue ReadingPro-Coal MP Appointed to Lead Influential Cross-Party Environment Group

Australia’s largest-ever civil disobedience protest stops half a million tonnes of coal exports

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Image: Rising Tide

They are calling it the largest civil disobedience climate protest in the history of Australia.

This weekend, thousands of activists, young and old, from across the country descended on the world’s largest coal port at Muloobinba (Newcastle), on Awabakal and Worimi land and water.

The organizers labeled it a family-friendly event with live music and speeches. The plan also included blockading the plant by a sea blockage by kayak, boat, or even surfboard. It was the first time a blockage was planned overnight.

The protest was a huge success. In the end, some three thousand people prevented coal ships leaving for thirty-two hours and stopped half a million tonnes of coal from being exported.

Some tweets from the action:

In total, one hundred people were arrested, including 97 year old Reverend Alan Stuart who said: “I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations.” He became the oldest person ever to be arrested in Australia.

Continue ReadingAustralia’s largest-ever civil disobedience protest stops half a million tonnes of coal exports

Big European insurers ‘underwrite 30% of US coal despite net zero pledges’

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Lloyds building London
Lloyd’s of London has committed to leading the market to a net zero underwriting position, yet it does not mandate or restrict the underwriting policies of its 85 members. Image: Dmitry Tonkonog, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lloyd’s of London, Zurich and Swiss Re among top 10 insurers of largest US coalmines, study finds

Lloyd’s of London and other big European insurers are underwriting almost a third of US coal production despite their net zero pledges, according to research, with the Lloyd’s insurance market emerging as the second-biggest player.

A report from the Insure Our Future campaign group found that Lloyd’s, Zurich and Swiss Re are among the top 10 insurers of the 25 biggest US coalmines, which produced more than 60% of the country’s output last year. They underwrite 13 mines producing 30.7% of US coal.

Coal is the largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions, and the US is the fourth largest producer of coal worldwide, last year mining 595m short tons – a measure commonly used in the US equal to 2,000 pounds (907.18 kg).

Even though 45 big global insurers have adopted policies limiting coal underwriting in recent years, the report found that some are exploiting loopholes or violating their own policies to continue insuring coalmines.

Continue ReadingBig European insurers ‘underwrite 30% of US coal despite net zero pledges’

Friends of the Earth takes legal action against government over new coalmine in Cumbria

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Environmental campaign group, Friends of the Earth, is taking legal action against the UK government following its recent decision to grant planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The claim will be filed later this month and will focus on the harmful impacts to the environment from the coalmine. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel.

The other main opponent of the mine, South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC), is also considering legal action and sent a letter to the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, in December seeking more information and setting out some of the errors in law in his decision. 

Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully.

Continue ReadingFriends of the Earth takes legal action against government over new coalmine in Cumbria

John Kerry examining likely impact of new UK coalmine

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John Kerry, the US climate official, has said he is closely examining the UK government’s approval of a new coalmine, over concerns that it will raise greenhouse gas emissions and send the wrong signal to developing countries.

Kerry, Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said he was taking a close interest in the mine, the first to get the go-ahead in the UK for 30 years, and that he would speak out publicly against the approval if it did not meet strict criteria.

“I’m asking my people to give me a better download on exactly what the emissions implications are going to be,” he said in an interview on Friday evening.

“Coal is not exactly the direction that the world is trying to move in, or needs to move in. What I want to know is the level of abatement here [such as whether the resulting greenhouse gases will be captured and stored] and the comparison of this particular process in the production of steel,” he said.

Continue ReadingJohn Kerry examining likely impact of new UK coalmine

Go-ahead for controversial Cumbria coal mine sparks climate dismay

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Ministers have approved the opening of the first new British coal mine in a generation in a decision has horrified environmentalists and risks fresh revolt by Conservative MPs.

The Woodhouse Colliery project, near Whitehaven in Cumbria, has sparked fierce opposition from local people and environmentalists, including the president of the COP26 climate change summit, former cabinet minister Alok Sharma.

Green groups warn that the new pit will damage the UK’s reputation internationally and undermine its ability to persuade others to make sacrifices to tackle global warming.

The former chief executive of British Steel Ron Deelan agreed: “This is a completely unnecessary step for the British steel industry, which is not waiting for more coal as there is enough on the free market available.

Continue ReadingGo-ahead for controversial Cumbria coal mine sparks climate dismay

COP26 News review day 13

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COP26 overran into it’s thirteenth day today and produced the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Cop26 ends in climate agreement despite India watering down coal resolution

The negotiations carried on late into Saturday evening, as governments squabbled over provisions on phasing out coal, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and providing money to the poor world.

The “Glasgow climate pact” was adopted despite a last-minute intervention by India to water down language on “phasing out” coal to merely “phasing down”.

The pledges on emissions cuts made at the two-week long Cop26 summit in Glasgow fell well short of those required to limit temperatures to 1.5C, according to scientific advice. Instead, all countries have agreed to return to the negotiating table next year, at a conference in Egypt, and re-examine their national plans, with a view to increasing their ambition on cuts.

Continue ReadingCOP26 News review day 13

COP26 News review day 4

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COP26: Nicola Sturgeon urged to intervene in policing of protests

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to intervene to stop “over the top” policing of climate protests at COP26.

Environmental campaigners have claimed that there have been “numerous incidents” of abuse of power tactics by officers from forces all over the UK.

Around 10,000 officers a day have been deployed on the streets of Glasgow for the duration of the summit.

Activists have sent an open letter to the First Minister asking her to intervene to ensure the right to protest is upheld ahead of a mass climate march on Saturday, expected to draw in thousands and spark other protests across the country.

Cop26 protest demands end to the hostile environment and the arms trade

A MARCH for peace travelled through Glasgow during Cop26 today, demanding an end to the hostile environment and the arms trade.

The demonstration, led by activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and XR Peace, travelled from the Home Office to BAE Systems to highlight the links between the climate crisis, Britain’s racist immigration policies and the arms trade — and in solidarity with climate and war refugees.

The event featured speakers from the Faslane Peace Camp, CND, and participants from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

XR said that Britain’s military-industrial sector annually emits more greenhouse gases than 60 individual countries — such as Uganda, which has a population of 45 million people — while poorer countries suffer a huge injustice in climate and conflict.

If Fighting Climate Crisis Is the Goal, Critics Say COP26 Coal Reduction Deal ‘Falls Spectacularly Short’

COP26 officials on Thursday are heralding developments they say signal that “the end of coal is in sight”—but advocates for strong climate action suggest holding the applause.

“Agreed at COP26 is an inadequate agreement that allows coal to continue for nearly 20 more years,” tweeted Extinction Rebellion. “But that’s excluding major nations who refuse to sign at all.”

Among the key developments at the ongoing climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland is the new Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement signed by nearly four dozen countries, though notably not the U.S., China, or Australia——among the world’s top coal producers.

COP26: UK has failed to lead on energy

The UK Government has failed to lead COP26 talks on energy because it does not practice what it preaches, the Scottish Greens have said.

Today’s announcements on energy include a coal commitment that excludes the biggest polluters like the US, Australia, China and India and overseas finance plans that won’t cover projects already in the pipeline, like the UK’s planned investment in a gasfield in Mozambique.

Commenting, Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “Today marks a colossal failure of leadership by the UK Government, just days after the Prime Minister flew from Glasgow to London on a private jet.

Ed Miliband Says Ministers’ “Flirting” With New Coal Mine Project Is Undermining COP26 Progress

Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, has accused the government of “double speak and double standards” after they announced a series of commitments at COP26 to reduce the use of coal despite “flirting” with a new UK-based colliery.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Miliband said the refusal to scrap the project was “undermining” their ability to press other countries to take tougher acion on phasing out the use of coal.

Continue ReadingCOP26 News review day 4