Why are we still approving fossil fuel projects? The case of West Cumbria Mining.

In this week’s episode of the Be Loud: Climate podcast, Keran and Rux interview Ciara Shannon of about the proposed Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in West Cumbria. The proposal of this coal mine demonstrates a fundamental failure of the UK climate action frameworks to penetrate current decision making processes in local councils. Ciara also shares her opinions on how young people can get involved in decision making processes in the UK and current challenges around climate literacy.

Listen to the episode wherever you get your podcasts by searching “Be Loud: Climate” or listen online here.

Absent from news headlines in the past few months has been the proposed Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in West Cumbria. To quote their website “since 2014, West Cumbria Mining has been developing plans for the creation of a metallurgical coal mine, known as Woodhouse Colliery, off the coast near Whitehaven in West Cumbria to supply the UK and European steel-making coal market, which currently imports around 45 million tonnes per annum.”

Obviously this seems counterintuitive to the UK’s pledge to cut out polluting fossil fuels and directly opposed to the bold pledges that our Prime Minister has been making publicly about the UK’s commitment to our obligations under the Paris Agreement. These were communicated on 12 December 2020 as reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030.

In addition to the actual use of the coal itself in industry, the coal mine itself has built in polluting effects including issues such as land use, waste management, water and air pollution. The emissions portion of this relates to those in the processing of the coal once extracted, but also the methane released during the extraction itself.

All in all, regardless of whether this is being used for energy or steel, it is bad for the environment and directly contradicts what the UK is saying about our commitment to reducing emissions (totally aside from the environmental impacts on the land itself).

When we interviewed Ciara Shannon from Eden Works on this subject, we were pretty shocked to find out that this project had passed several approval processes, but also that it hadn’t been widely reported on to begin with. We are shook.

In the episode, Ciara shares with us the process which the proposal went through and essentially was left with the local council to approve or reject. Whilst some might see this as a deliberate attempt to undermine climate objectives, Ciara (kindly) puts this down to being an issue of climate literacy and the misunderstanding by local authorities; that their roles do not include climate objectives.

This really highlights the work that we need to do as activists. The way we see it, we now have two further actions. The first is to continue our work in climate literacy - to ensure that all people have base level knowledge of the issues surrounding climate change and their role in that. We all have a role to play. Whilst the environmental impact assessments might come off as being favourable or at the very least not overtly damaging to the local environment when weighed against the social benefits (being the 510 jobs that will come from this mine), we need to somehow ensure that we are constantly reiterating our countrywide commitments to lowering our emissions and to the energy transition.

As a community, we need to figure out how we can be helpful in these scenarios where maybe climate literacy is the reason why these projects are approved. How can we get to local councils and MPs to ensure that they know about our commitments, the alternative green job economies that can be created and the benefits of these approaches.

And then one step further, in the longer term how we can start to advocate for a framework that overshadows every piece of action that the government takes in new infrastructure projects. In much the same way as human rights frameworks are now pervasive across many countries in the world, should climate frameworks be similarly implemented?

The second action is that we need to continue to protest and to keep an eye out for projects like these, and then to take action. In the episode Ciara outlines the objection process and how you can make your voices heard to your local MPs and councillors. It’s difficult to know how to navigate these scenarios, but your voice is important and your voice needs to be heard. We are stronger as a collective.

Below is a list of the resources mentioned by Ciara in this episode and we hope you will take full advantage of them, check them out, get involved and let’s take action to stop these sorts of projects from being built when there are alternative green infrastructure on the horizon.

We hope you will follow Ciara in here amazing work on her website: and on twitter @cshannonhk.

  • ClientEarth: We are an environmental charity with a unique approach - we use the power of law to change the system for a brighter, healthier future.

  • Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership: Aiming to create one of the fastest growing economies in the UK

  • South Lakeland Action on Climate Change Towards Transition (SLACCtt): A community-based charity which brings together people who want to do something about climate change and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

  • Friends of the Earth: Petition on the coal mine here.

  • Hope for the Future: A climate charity which works to equip communities, groups and individuals across the country to communicate the urgency of climate change with their local politicians.

  • C40: A network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.

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