LAST Tuesday Cumbria county councillors – Lib Dem, Labour and Conservatives – voted unanimously in favour of a new deep coal mine in Whitehaven – the first in the UK for more than 30 years.

This has happened after the world’s climate scientists recently told us we have just 12 years to avert catastrophic climate breakdown.

Several very robust presentations were made to councillors by climate scientists, a former senior planning officer and other experts, demonstrating why this proposal should have been rejected.

Councillors were told it would generate annual emissions equivalent to those of more than one million British citizens (over 9m tonnes per year), which could lead to thousands of climate change-related deaths.

They heard how the steel industry is gradually transitioning away from coal use to electric arc furnaces and other lower carbon alternatives. They were warned of potentially catastrophic releases of radioactive substances from nearby Sellafield that may result from mining-related seismicity (earthquakes).

But none of this seemed to register. When given the opportunity to ask questions there was a deafening silence on these issues.

Of course jobs are important – that’s not in doubt. We heard a heartbreaking presentation from someone who lived in the area, describing the level of deprivation and reliance on foodbanks, and arguing that the mine jobs were vital for his community. Who couldn’t sympathise with that?

But the solution isn’t a new coal mine that will exacerbate climate change. We need green jobs, and masses of them, but unfortunately we have a government that prevents their development.

The sad thing is that this project will inevitably fail to deliver the promised jobs over the medium term. The mine has a proposed 50-year lifespan, but councillors were warned that the global market for coal, whether for the steel industry or otherwise, will almost certainly collapse over the next decade or so as the world moves towards low and zero technologies.

This mine will then become a ‘stranded asset’, which investors will quickly abandon, along with the communities they claim to support.

This application should never have passed, and will almost certainly face a legal challenge. It’s an embarrassment for Cumbria.

People across the country and beyond have looked on in disbelief as our elected members ignored the evidence and voted through this dangerous white elephant.

Gwen Harrison

On behalf of the Westmorland and Lonsdale Green Party