MPs reportedly planning to U-turn on new coal mine bans

Ministers believe a complete ban isn’t appropriate and risks meeting future demand

The BBC is reporting that the Government intends to remove a ban on opening new coal mines that was added to the Energy Bill, which is currently progressing through the House of Commons.

In April, Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords tabled an amendment to the Bill which decrees that, within six months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, the Government must ban the opening or licensing of any new coal mines in the UK.

The amendment was approved by the House of Lords that same month, with 194 of the 197 peers voting to support the motion.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “The Energy Bill will ensure we have cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy for the future. While our reliance on coal is rapidly diminishing, there is still a need for it in industries such as steel and cement so now is not the right time to make changes.

“We will continue to listen to representations made by Members as passage of the Bill continues but oppose this amendment because a complete ban isn’t appropriate and risks meeting future demand from our own resources.”

The BBC is also reporting that MPs want to drop amendments to the Bill covering small community clean energy projects, which would’ve enabled communities to sell electricity directly into local homes.

The reports come as the wrangle over the approval of the UK’s first deep coal mine in more than 30 years continues to roll on.

Cumbria County Council initially approved West Cumbria Mining’s proposals for the project in October 2020. However, the decision was called in by the UK Government in early 2021 on the grounds of the potential climate impact of the use of the extracted coal. Planning was then approved by a reshuffled Government cabinet in December 2022.

The decision caused a row in the House of Commons and was strongly criticised by both the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and net-zero review author Chris Skidmore MP.

The High Court confirmed last month that it will hear submissions from Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change in October over the decision to grant approval. A three-day ‘rolled up’ hearing has been scheduled for 24-26 October. A judgment will be made immediately on the final delay.

Commenting on the announcement Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said that “coal belongs in the history books” and that today’s reports would seriously undermine the UK’s climate targets.

“It’s little wonder the UK is struggling to reap the huge benefits from building a clean and modern energy system while our government’s policies are stuck in the past.

Among the world’s scientists, the UN, the UK government’s independent climate advisors and the International Energy Agency there is widespread agreement that new fossil fuel projects must end to avert climate breakdown. But ministers seem determined to ignore this advice and continue delaying the urgent transition to a zero-carbon economy needed to secure a safe, green future.”

Energy Bill: A timeline

Following on from the British Energy Security Strategy in spring 2022, which significantly increased targets for deploying offshore wind, blue and green hydrogen and nuclear, then-Energy-Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng introduced a new Energy Security Bill designed to enact many of the changes necessary to deliver the Strategy.

Following the resignations of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss as Prime Minister, the Bill was hauled in for review and an updated version – simply called the Energy Bill – was set out in December 2022.

After a pause late last year, the Energy Bill was updated and started progressing through the House of Commons in May 2023.

Here’s everything you need to know about what is in the Energy Bill at the moment.

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