COP27: New coal mine would “seriously damage” UK’s credibility
Published on 3 November 2022
The opening of a new coal mine in the UK would undermine the government’s international credibility in tackling climate change, a leading expert has warned.
Dr Simon Cook, a geoscientist at the University of Dundee, says that global food, water and energy supplies remain vulnerable to a warming planet and that collective efforts are critical in protecting these.
Having witnessed the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers first-hand, Dr Cook is on the frontline of efforts to chart the decline of these landscapes and to develop solutions to the many problems that result from glacier shrinkage.
As world leaders prepare to meet in Egypt for COP27, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, against a backdrop of an energy and cost of living crisis, Dr Cook has called for governments to reject high-polluting, short-term solutions to ease present day political woes.
“The COP26 summit in Glasgow was billed as ‘make or break’ in terms of limiting global warming to 1.5C and in that respect it probably failed,“ said Dr Cook.
“Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects was the choice of words around coal-fired power, where a last-minute intervention led to a watering down from ‘phasing out’ of coal to ‘phasing down’, which is a much weaker expression of intent.
“Here in the UK, while the Scottish Government has effectively ruled out any new coal mining, there is the possibility of opening up a new coal mine in Cumbria where coal would be extracted from beneath the Irish Sea.
“This is a controversial project. From a climate change perspective, the opening of any new coal mine in the UK would seriously damage the credibility of the UK Government’s stated goals on achieving net zero carbon emissions.”
Held over a fortnight in Glasgow, COP26 brought together world leaders in an effort to reach a consensus on climate change policy. Billed by US climate envoy John Kerry as the world’s "last best hope for the world to get its act together,” a fortnight of negotiations is widely regarded to have done little to bring the planet back from the brink of a climate catastrophe.
Having travelled the world to study the planet’s glaciers, Dr Cook regularly witnesses the immediate and permanent effects of climate change. His research this year has taken him to the Swiss Alps, during which he noted dramatic melting of the region’s glaciers.
Dr Cook said that the past 12 months had provided politicians with plenty of reminders as to why action is urgently required at COP27.
“As we reflect on another year since COP26, the urgency for action on climate is unfortunately all too real,” said Dr Cook.
“Recent floods in Pakistan, which covered 10% of the country, a prolonged heatwave across Europe and a very rare glacier collapse in the Italian Alps are just some of the indicators that our climate is becoming ever more extreme. As the world warms, these sorts of events will become more extreme, threatening our food and water supplies, and energy security further.”
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