Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
The policy of Welsh Government is to bring to a managed end the extraction and use of coal. The Coal Policy Statement I am publishing today is an important step towards that goal.
The opening of new coal mines or the extension of existing coaling operations in Wales would add to the global supply of coal having a significant effect on Wales’ and the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets as well as international efforts to limit the impact of climate change. Therefore, Welsh Ministers do not intend to authorise new Coal Authority mining operation licences or variations to existing licences. Coal licences may be needed in wholly exceptional circumstances and each application will be decided on its own merits, but the presumption will always be against coal extraction.
Whilst coal will continue to be used in some industrial processes and non-energy uses in the short to medium term, adding to the global supply of coal will prolong our dependency on coal and make achieving our decarbonisation targets increasingly difficult. For this reason, there is no clear case for expanding the supply of coal from within the UK. In the context of the climate emergency, and in accordance with our Low Carbon Delivery Plan, our challenge to the industries reliant on coal is to work with the Welsh Government to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and make a positive contribution to decarbonisation.
The notification direction on coal and petroleum developments allows Ministers to call in a planning application where it is of greater than local significance or novel or contentious, should they consider it appropriate. These provide strong control measures over new mining permissions. Planning Policy Wales (PPW 11) already provides a strong presumption against coaling, with the exception of wholly exceptional circumstances, and Local Planning Authorities are required to consider this policy in the decisions they make. Local Authorities have a critical role to play in the response to the climate emergency and authorities right across Wales have shown real leadership on this issue. The transition away from the use of fossil fuels will be supported by local energy planning, building on the regional energy strategies for each part of Wales.
The publication of this coal policy builds on our policies on petroleum, including hydraulic fracturing for petroleum extraction, and our marine plan – all of which underline the commitment of Welsh Government to oppose the extraction and use of fossil fuels and to support social justice in the economic transition away from their use. We will develop our policies further, reflecting the provisions of our Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and our Environment (Wales) Act. These Acts require the development of policy to reflect the need for our economy and society to live within environmental limits and to hand on the natural world in a better state than we found it to generations who will come after us.
These include further developing the policy in relation to coal for uses other than energy, policy on the combustion of fuel of any kind for heat, and our policy towards Carbon, Capture, Utilisation and Storage. These are complex areas and it is vital the Welsh stakeholders take an interest in the development of these policies, which will affect not only industries with a direct interest but our communities more widely and our global responsibilities as a nation.
The transition away from coal must be properly managed. The chaotic dismantling of large sections of the industry in the 1980s is one of the reasons that we find ourselves grappling with the dangerous legacy of abandoned coal tips in Wales. Hundreds of Welsh workers still rely on coal mining to support their families and communities. A managed end to the extraction and use of coal will require skills training and employment support, working in social partnership with our trades unions. It will require research and must respect the legal rights of employees and licence holders.
The policy published today is only one part of the transition away from coal mining in Wales. It is clear the move towards a managed end of the extraction and use of coal must be decisive and delivered as soon as is feasibly possible.