In a bid to curb the growth of the UK economy, the government has put the power to decide the fate of its coal mining sector under its own watchful eye.
The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee (ECSC) is due to discuss a raft of issues this week, including whether the UK should proceed with the closure of coal mines and whether it should continue with the planned closure of two of its largest coal mines.
It has been revealed that the committee will consider whether the government should continue the closure and restart the export of coal, a move that has caused outrage and opposition from industry groups and environmentalists.
“The ECSC will be looking at coal mining, the impact on the environment, and whether the country can make the best use of the existing resources we have, given our low prices and low wages,” a spokesman for the committee told the BBC.
The committee is due in November, the final sitting of the current parliament, and it is not clear if it will discuss coal again in the interim.
While the government is seeking to find new sources of cheap, clean energy, the mining sector is under a growing number of pressure, particularly from carbon emissions.
A report by the National Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (NIEER) last year said coal mining in the UK had become one of the biggest polluters in the world.
One of the most significant impacts of the climate change caused by burning coal is the rapid rise in CO2 emissions and the rapid decline in the temperature of the atmosphere, according to a report by EDF, a leading coal miner.
Coal mining has been blamed for driving up air pollution levels in cities, and this year’s Great Britain climate change summit saw a significant drop in coal demand in the country, which had already been declining.
NIEERS report also said coal has a huge carbon footprint, as coal power plants generate 40% of the nation’s CO2.
Despite the government’s pledge to cut coal consumption by 25%, there is still a significant number of people in the coal mining industry who continue to rely on coal for their livelihoods.
Efforts to cut emissions have not resulted in the closure or shutdown of existing coal mines, but a number of projects have been approved by the government, which has pledged to help companies cut their CO2 emission and reduce their costs.
For many of these projects, coal has been chosen over renewable energy sources.
However, there have been some notable failures to meet these targets.
In November, a project in Lancashire, England, which was proposed by a private company to build an “energy village” on the edge of the coal mines that were to be shut down, was approved for approval despite warnings from campaigners that the project could have devastating impacts on the local environment.
Campaigners were concerned that the £30 million plan would include a number and intensification of coal smelters and power plants that would cause significant pollution, including smog, water pollution and air quality problems.
Environmental campaigners were also concerned about the possibility of the development of new mines in the region.
Earlier this year, the Government approved a scheme for the creation of an energy hub in Northumberland, which would provide a £20 million investment in energy production and storage, to support the development and operation of new coal-fired power plants and to generate jobs in the area.
According to the BBC, the scheme was one of a number approved in 2017 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which aims to create jobs and economic opportunities for people in Northumbria.
Some of the projects approved by Defra included a project to build a £4.3 billion (€4.9 billion) “energy hub” in Gloucestershire that will supply the region with a number, intensification and additional coal-burning power plants, along with a scheme to develop the power grid in the south-west of the county.
Another approved energy hub is being developed in West Yorkshire, with a further £4 billion investment in the local electricity network.
Meanwhile, another project, proposed by West Yorkshire First Energy, is currently being considered for approval.
The scheme aims to build 500 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity, including a 250 MW hydroelectric power plant, to provide energy to the region’s 1.6 million households.
Last month, the Department of Energy and Environment (DECE) announced that it was developing an action plan to tackle climate change, which included a commitment to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.
As well as coal, there are currently plans to build wind and solar energy, and the DECE has also been reviewing the environmental impact of coal.
If the government wants to keep coal mining open, the ECSc will have to approve all applications and make sure they go ahead.