Environmental groups on Wednesday welcomed a decision by Britain´s Conservative government to lift its opposition to onshore wind farms. But they warned that any benefit would be erased if the government backs plans to open the U.K.´s first new coal mine in three decades.
Thursday is the deadline for a decision on the proposed mine in the Cumbria area of northwest England. Opponents say approving it will obliterate the U.K.´s image as a world leader in replacing polluting fossil fuels with clean renewable energy.
Wind produced more than a quarter of the U.K.´s electricity in 2021. But the Conservative government has since 2015 opposed new wind turbines on land because of local opposition. A majority of Britain´s wind farms are at sea.
While running for the Conservative Party’s leadership in the summer, Rishi Sunak, who is now prime minister, pledged to keep the ban. But amid growing calls for change from Conservative lawmakers, the government said Tuesday it could allow wind farms in areas where communities support them, pending a “technical consultation.”
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“Decisions on onshore wind sites will continue to be made at a local level as these are best made by local representatives who know their areas best and are democratically accountable to the local community,” the government said in a statement.
Caroline Lucas, Britain´s only Green Party lawmaker, said ending the ban on onshore wind was welcome, though “the devil is in the detail.”
“But if this is meant to `buy off´ giving the greenlight to the Cumbria coal mine later this week, it would be totally & utterly shameless,” she wrote on Twitter.