The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question concerning the proposed opening of a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria, on 8th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I declare a slight interest in this topic, since Whitehaven is in my diocese, and like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I live in west Cumbria—in a particularly beautiful part of it, I have to say. This debate has now been running for more than two years, and in Cumbria, as in the whole country, it has been highly contentious, with a great deal of passion expressed on both sides. We have already heard some of that passion in the debate this evening. So I am acutely aware of the many arguments about both the potential environmental impact, which has been deplored, and the employment opportunities, which would—as has already been mentioned—be very welcome in this very deprived part of the country.
However, what is new in this discussion, to me at least, is the report that the mine seeks to be a net-zero operation. The inspector makes the same point and it has been mentioned several times already by the Minister. I press her on whether that is indeed the case; will this be a net-zero operation? If so, what exactly will off-set the many million tonnes of CO2 that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, mentioned will be released from the mine over the next 30 years? Do His Majesty’s Government have any plans to require West Cumbria Mining to invest in local services and facilities in addition to the mine, as part of their levelling-up agenda?
Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): I thank the right reverend Prelate. As far as net zero is concerned, yes, that is exactly the evidence the inspector was given by the applicant. The inspector’s report says:
“The Secretary of State recognises the views of many objectors to the scheme that the use of offsetting”—
which is part of how it is made net zero—
“is contrary to the attainment of a net zero model. However, it is acknowledged as a valid approach by the CCC to achieving net zero in the sixth carbon budget”.
There are different ways of doing it, but the applicant gave what the inspector considered to be good, strong evidence that this could be delivered. That is the important thing. I am sorry; I missed the bit about the community.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: The second bit was about whether the Government will require West Cumbria Mining to invest in local services and facilities as part of its operation.
Baroness Barran: First, more jobs and money coming into the area will help local services and shops, and the economy of the area. Secondly, I do not know; I have not read the planning application in detail, but I will look at it and respond on what is required. I would be surprised if it did not require local investment; most planning applications of this size do.
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