ON ASH WEDNESDAY, clergy and lay Christians protested outside the Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle offices of Ward Hadaway, lawyers for West Cumbria Mining Limited, and the London headquarters of Javelin Global Commodities, which has an exclusive marketing and offtake agreement with West Cumbria Mining.
The protestors are calling on both companies to “cut the ties” with the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria. The protesters held banners with the message ‘Coal is killing humanity’ and delivered letters asking the organisations to end their involvement with West Cumbria Mining. The Christians took part in the actions as part of a group called Christian Climate Action.
In London, the Rev Vanessa Elston and the Rev Helen Burnett also held a service of lament outside the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, calling for the planning permission for the mine to be overturned.
During the service, crosses were marked on people’s foreheads, using both traditional ashes and coal dust. Ash Wednesday is an ancient holy day in the Christian church calendar which marks the beginning of Lent. An ash cross is often drawn on people’s foreheads as a sign of repentance.
The Rev Vanessa Elston said: “Granting permission for the West Cumbria coal mine when the world needs to be reducing carbon emissions at speed, is a failure of leadership. How can we have any credibility on the world stage, in trying to get China and the US to take action on the climate crisis, if we are building a new coal mine? Christians need to speak out against decisions like this.”
Anne Blair-Vincent, who took part in the Newcastle protest, said: “West Cumbria Mining are putting profit before people and Ward Hadaway is helping them do this and making money from it. We could be leading the world towards a brighter future by investing in renewable energy but instead we are setting an example of greed and hypocrisy by opening a new coal mine. As a Christian I have to speak out about the harm that this will do and also pray for all those involved to have a change of heart.”
The new mine was approved in December 2022 by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, following a planning inquiry. Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action Against Climate Change have launched legal challenges to the Secretary of State’s decision.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up has acknowledged that 220 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be released from the coal extracted over the mine’s lifetime. Leading scientists have condemned the new coal mine. In 2021 UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on governments and private companies to take steps to cancel all global coal projects in the pipeline and end the deadly addiction to coal.
Mark Francis, who took part in the London protest, said: “Javelin Global Commodities have been instrumental in securing permission for the mine and will be creating untold suffering for climate vulnerable people across the globe when they sell the output of the mine because the coal that they sell will drive the climate crisis. An essential part of my Christian faith is loving my brothers and sisters across the world who will be harmed by this and that is why I am here protesting.”
The Rev Jon Swales, who took part in the Leeds protest, said: “The science is clear. Fossil fuels are killing us. Unless things change dramatically, we face a future of mass starvation, mass migration and societal collapse. Our government and private corporations, backed by financial and legal institutions, are putting the foot on the accelerator of climate breakdown by investing in new gas, oil and coal projects. For the sake of justice and a livable future this must stop.”
Helen Burnett said: “As the granddaughter of a ‘Little Master’ from Sheffield I know the importance of the coal and steel industry in the history of this nation. But now future generations will face the climate changing consequences of extracting and burning coal. Just as the steel industry of Sheffield made my home town proud, so now investment in solid, renewable, sustainable green jobs could bring a new pride to Cumbria and Whitehaven without jeopardising our nation’s goal of net zero.
“I repent my part in damaging God’s creation. I want to call upon this government to listen to the science, listen to the people and retract permission for the West Cumbria Coal Mine – replacing it with a green new deal for Cumbria. That would be in the true spirit of Lenten repentance – a turning away from evil decisions towards decisions that show the love of God.”
Annette James, who took part in the protest in Manchester, said: “Climate change and extreme weather events now impacting UK communities are accelerated by the burning of coal. The opening of a new mine here sends the wrong message to countries like India, Australia and China who figure large in global coal extraction. The legal argument that CO2 emissions from the combustion of coal need play no part in deciding whether a coal mine meets UK climate targets awaits a Supreme Court decision later this year. Mr. Gove’s decision not to await the outcome is morally bankrupt.”
The Ash Wednesday protests are part of a series of ‘Cut the Ties’ actions”, which target a web of organisations propping up the fossil fuel economy. These actions are taking place in the run up to The Big One – a protest happening in Westminster from the 21 to 24 April 2023, to demand a fair society and a citizen-led end to the fossil fuel era. Christian Climate Action is inviting everyone to The Big One protest.
* Source: Christian Climate Action