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    Review of 'Use of evidence and expertise in UK climate governance : The case of the Cumbrian Coal Mine'

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    Use of evidence and expertise in UK climate governance : The case of the Cumbrian Coal MineCrossref
    Excellent legal and political analysis of a UK government decision that contradicts its ostensible c
    Average rating:
        Rated 4.5 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Competing interests:
    None

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    Use of evidence and expertise in UK climate governance : The case of the Cumbrian Coal Mine

    There is a clear scientific consensus that no new coal mines can be developed, if the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises is to be met. Yet in December 2022, following a lengthy Public Inquiry, the UK Government approved the development of Woodhouse Colliery in Cumbria. In doing so, it accepted the claim that the coal mine would be ‘zero carbon’, and could even result in lower global emissions overall. As this paper demonstrates, there is no independent evidence to support these claims, whilst a large body of independent evidence comes to the opposite conclusion. This paper uses the example of Woodhouse Colliery to examine the use of evidence and expertise in climate governance processes. It finds that the nature of expertise and evidence is not properly considered, and that there is ambiguity and confusion surrounding the implementation of the UK’s climate legislation, particularly the Climate Change Act. It also finds that the ways in which the decision-making process solicited and assessed evidence was flawed, promoting a ‘false balance’. This ambiguity and false balance provide scope for developers to argue the case for destructive developments, even while claiming adherence to climate ambitions. The paper concludes by suggesting reforms to governance processes, to provide a more transparent and credible implementation of policies to achieve the UK’s net zero target. Suggested reforms include clearer rules governing fossil fuel phase-out; greater transparency and better handling of conflicts of interest in decision-making; and devolution of climate responsibilities to local areas.
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      Review information

      10.14293/S2199-1006.1.SOR-EARTH.A4ESUW.v1.RDZYZW
      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Political science,Environmental economics & Politics,Environmental management, Policy & Planning
      Public policymaking,Climate change,evidence,UK,Politics of the environment,steel,Climate modelling,expertise,planning,Climate Change Act,coal,Environmental policy and practice,Cumbria,climate

      Review text

      The article is an in-depth analysis of the UK government’s approval, following an extensive public inquiry, of a coalmine in December 2022.  Given the UK’s advanced climate legislation, this decision is surprising; given the conservative government’s bias regarding environmental matters, it is not.

      The author unpacks the multiple reasons behind this startling decision, inter alia the:

      ►         fuzziness of the UK’s Climate Change Act of 2008 as regards implementation focus and accountability.  Especially, the greenhouse gas reduction targets are not operationalized and responsibility is diffuse: several government departments are responsible for various sectors; local government has no statutorily assigned role;

      ►            legislative ambiguity that provides scope for developers to push through destructive ventures even while claiming adherence to climate ambitions.

      ►         acceptance without evidence of the claim that the coal mine would be ‘zero carbon;’

      ►         less than scrupulous assessment of the quality of expertise and evidence, also that a false balance between serious and spurious evidence was tolerated.

      In short, the UK climate legislation’s lack of clarity all but invited a flawed process and a flawed outcome.  The article proposes a range of reforms to facilitate achieving the UK’s net zero target, such as:

      ►         instituting clearer rules governing fossil fuel phase-out;

      ►         ensuring greater transparency and better handling of conflicts of interest in decision-making;

      ►            devolving climate responsibilities to local areas;

      ►         separating the targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the targets of the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – so that the latter are assuredly additional, not a ruse to avoid the former.

      The author is explicit about her opposition to the Woodhouse Colliery, a declaration that is refreshing and certainly not a detraction from the quality, logic or conclusion of her analysis.

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