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In an open letter, 20+ Anglican and Catholic bishops, as well as heads of eight UK Churches, challenge UK Government’s decision to approve a new coal mine near Whitehaven, Cumbria
Over 450 Church leaders and Christian environmental campaigners have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State Michael Gove, calling on the UK Government to rethink its approval of a new coal mine in Cumbria, which received the go-ahead last week but threatens the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5ºC.
The letter states, ‘We acknowledge that this region needs investment, but the Government is supporting a dying industry instead of securing sustainable green jobs for the long term. We know that 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.’
Coordinated by Young Christian Climate Network and supported by Operation Noah and Christian Aid, the letter has been endorsed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, by the lead environmental bishops for the Church of England and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (Rt Revd Graham Usher and Rt Revd John Arnold), by the general secretary of Churches Together in England (Revd Mike Royal) and by the heads of the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Undeb yr Annibynwyr/Union of Welsh Independent Churches, Quakers in Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Clergy and members of other Christian denominations have also signed the letter.
Last year, the International Energy Agency said there could be no new fossil fuel developments anywhere in the world if global heating were to be limited to 1.5ºC – the internationally agreed upon goal – while research from Carbon Tracker has found that 90% of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground as unburnable carbon in order to limit global heating to 1.5ºC.
The open letter from Church leaders and campaigners quotes a 2018 lecture that Michael Gove 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.’ The letter states, ‘we urge the UK government to practise what (Gove) preached by keeping coal in the ground and investing in a sustainable future.’
Dr Chris Manktelow, Campaigns Lead for the Young Christian Climate Network:
‘As young people who want a better future for everyone living on this planet, we were deeply concerned about the approval of the first coal mine in the UK for thirty years. We felt that church and Christian leaders needed to speak out against this decision. 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.’
Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints Church, Ascot:
‘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. Not only does it threaten the international goal of limiting global heating to 1.5ºC, and thus make some of the more dangerous impacts of global heating more likely, but it is an economically disastrous policy that short-changes an area of the country that needs investment.’
‘The coal industry worldwide is moving away from the type of coking coal the Cumbria mine will produce. Moreover, according to the UN, every pound of investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry. The people of Cumbria deserve more than this desperate gambit to extract the most polluting of all fossil fuels at the very time the world is rapidly transitioning to renewables. We should be investing in the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past – jobs which will soon be gone.’
Sophie Powell, UK Advocacy Lead, Christian Aid:
‘The UK Government is trashing the legacy of its own COP26 climate summit in Glasgow which claimed to mark the end of the era of coal just 12 months ago. Almost all the coal from this new mine will be exported, not used in the UK. The Government will be propping up the coal industry, exacerbating the climate crisis and causing more suffering to people already struggling to cope with worsening droughts, storms and floods.’
Notes for Editors:
Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) is an action focussed community of 18-30 year old Christians choosing to follow Jesus in pursuit of climate justice (www.yccn.uk).
Operation Noah is a Christian environmental charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. (www.operationnoah.org)
Christian Aid is a development charity that works to tackle poverty around the world (www.christianaid.org.uk).