KEIR Starmer has criticised the UK Government for 'flirting with the idea of opening a coal mine in Cumbria' while promising to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Labour leader was interviewed on BBC Radio 2 this week during COP26 talks.

The summit involves global powers discussing the common goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 to avert catastrophic climate change. World leaders are using the platform to explain their plans to achieve this.

Poland, Vietnam and other nations have signed a pledge to phase out the use of coal during the talks.

Speaking to Jeremy Vine, Mr Starmer said: "COP is very, very important. Obviously, the most important conference we’ve had in many, many years.

"We all want it to succeed. There’s a long, long way to go."

"I’m afraid we do have to put our foot down and say coal’s got to go. And the sooner we do that, the better and some of the advances on deforestation the other day and on coal are a step in the right direction."

Plans for a metallurgical coal mine in Whitehaven have become a point of contention for political figures and campaigners alike. Supporters of West Cumbria Mining's development have said that it will help reduce the country's emissions as the coal, which is necessary for the production of steel, will not need to be shipped over from abroad.

But objectors deny the legitimacy of WCM's plans to offset emissions, and say that opening a new coal mine is hypocritical of the UK Government which pledges to reach net zero.

Mr Starmer said: "I have to say, our ability to argue on the world stage that we should stop using coal is undermined by the Government not, or at least flirting with the idea of opening a coal mine in Cumbria which would be a completely wrong step. So we need to end coal but we do need obviously safe, secure forms of energy and the sooner we can get on to those safe, secure forms, the better.

Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie said: "They're getting the wrong end of the stick and a complete misunderstanding.

"The Whitehaven coal mine in no way conflicts with the UK's ambitions to tackle climate change.

"The message that people really need to understand is the coal that comes out of Whitehaven will be exclusively for use in the manufacture of steel.

"There is currently no viable alternative to coking coal."

Mr Starkie said: "I want to see a green industrial revolution where there's tidal, wind, solar and nuclear developed.

"I'd particularly like to see new nuclear, all of these new developments will need steel and the only viable option to produce steel is coking coal.

"People like Keir Starmer really need to understand the difference between reducing reliance on coal for energy and metallurgical coal."