Drama on Downing Street

19 February 2021 — DesSmogUK

  It’s the climate soap opera that’s gripped the nation in recent weeks, and it shows no signs of ending quite yet.

By now, you’ll be familiar with the main plot points. Campaigners have long opposed plans for a new coal mine in Whitehaven, West Cumbria, which if approved would release nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere for the next quarter of a century, just as the UK tries to radically reduce its emissions to net zero by 2050.

Boris Johnson’s government is under mounting pressure to “call in” the planning permission granted by Cumbria County Council in 2019, but has refused to act. However, in the latest twist, county councillors have now said they will “rethink” permission for the Woodhouse Colliery, signaling a possible U-turn.

While Johnson remains resolutely silent, a core group of Northern Conservative backbenchers have written a letter to the council’s Labour leader in favour of the mine. The MPs – predominantly from the Northern Research Group (NRG) – argue that blocking the project would pose “a serious risk to Cumbria’s economic growth”.

The group was formed in October to call on Johnson to provide a “clear roadmap” out of lockdown, and its climate credentials are unclear. It includes four former cabinet members – David Davis, Esther McVey, David Jones and David Mundell – who have all consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change.

Leader of the pack is Jake Berry, a long-term ally of Johnson, who previously backed the mine in his former capacity as Northern Powerhouse minister. He’s spoken about how Johnson actually “ordered” him to set up this group.

Johnson is known for acting at the whim of his allies (think Dominic Cummings, et al.). It remains to be seen whether he’ll have the guts to stand in Berry’s way, or if his silence will continue to define this coal-centred drama.

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