I WONDER if readers have ever wondered what the North-East would be like if there hadn’t been coal underneath the ground?

I always think that it would perhaps be like East Anglia, a relatively sparsely populated region.

Newcastle might be the size of Norwich and Sunderland the size of Ipswich.

It is of course coal mining and the connected industries, such as iron and steel and shipbuilding, which gave the North-East so much of its identity. And there was a heavy price to pay for this; in County Durham alone 20,000 miners lost their lives doing their job.

Now the pits are gone, and once proud centres of mining have become call centres instead – or centres of zero hour contracts and dead end jobs.

We also know that fossil fuels have increasingly to be left in the ground as the climate crisis deepens, to the extent that a temperature of 20 degrees centigrade was recently recorded in Antarctica.

Perhaps instead of seeing ourselves and allowing others to see our region as an ex-mining region, we should portray the North-East as an energy-producing region. In the past that energy was coal. In the future it will be new green sources of energy.

We need a green new deal urgently, to reduce the amount of carbon we produce and to help give young people decent, well-paid jobs in the new industries that will develop as the economy changes.

The North-East was at the forefront of the first industrial revolution.

We should be at the forefront of the new one as well.

Peter Sagar, Newcastle.