The UK is a global leader in the fight against climate change: since 1990 emissions from the electricity sector have decreased by 72%, while the economy has grown by two thirds. The UK was the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In line with our Net Zero target, the Government has committed to phasing out unabated coal-fired power generation by 2025, and is consulting on moving this date forward to 2024. The UK has already made great progress in decarbonising its energy system, with coal’s share of electricity generation falling from 40% in 2012 to less than 3% in 2019. The UK Government has also shown strong leadership internationally on the shift from coal power generation to clean energy. We co-launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance with Canada, which has now grown to over 100 members and is leading the COP26 Energy Transition campaign to accelerate the global transition to clean energy. The Government have also announced that we will no longer provide any new direct government support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas.
The planning application for the Whitehaven coal mine relates to metallurgical (coking) coal, rather than coal for electricity generation, and the Government recognises that some industrial processes, including steel production, are particularly difficult to decarbonise as there is currently no commercially viable alternative to coal in blast furnaces. Our priority is supporting innovation to help carbon-intensive industries to decarbonise further. We are taking steps to achieve this through initiatives such as the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, the Industrial Clusters Mission and the Clean Steel Fund. In addition, ahead of COP26, we are working in partnership with other countries to accelerate the pace of industrial decarbonisation, which includes the steel sector. The UK is coordinating action on the research, development and demonstration of new low carbon technologies with other countries, as well as exploring policy options for creating international markets for low carbon industrial products.
Planning decisions are made at a local level and this application is a matter for Cumbria County Council.