ENERGY: Time for coal has passed

Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, has explained his company's new focus on renewable energy with reference to climate change and the IPCC's stark warnings just last week.

He stated that: “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 to overturn its rejection of Banks’ application to build a new opencast coal mine within a stone’s throw of the beauty spot, Druridge Bay.

Its head seems to be 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’.

This is an enormously challenging goal, which allows no latitude whatever for ‘carbon indulgence’.

But Banks doesn’t seem to have noticed.

Likewise, on November 16 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 that 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: “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,

Whitley Bay