Fight the power: why climate activists are suing Europe’s biggest coal plant

(The Guardian, 26 Sep 2019) Future of Poland’s Bełchatów power station under scrutiny as grassroots groups and NGOs take radical action.

It is Europe’s biggest coal plant, with annual CO2 emissions roughly equivalent to those of the whole of New Zealand – but the future of the Bełchatów power station in central Poland has been called into question after a global environmental charity announced a legal challenge designed to eliminate the facility’s carbon footprint by 2035.

ClientEarth, an international NGO that seeks to protect the environment through legal action, announced on Thursday that it was taking PGE GiEK, a subsidiary of Polish state-owned power giant Polska Grupa Energetyczna, to court over emissions at the Bełchatów plant, which is notorious for its burning of highly polluting lignite, or brown coal.

The lawsuit, filed at the district court in the central city of Łódź, demands that the plant’s operators stop burning lignite, or take measures to eliminate the plant’s carbon emissions, by 2035 at the latest.

Marcin Stoczkiewicz, the head of central and eastern Europe at ClientEarth, said: “The Bełchatów power plant has provided Poland with vital power for decades, but times have changed. The largest emitters, like Bełchatów, must shoulder their share of responsibility for the climate crisis. Without a rapid coal phase-out, the climate fight will be futile.”

The Bełchatów plant burns approximately 45m tonnes of coal each year, and has emitted approximately 1bn tonnes of CO2 over the course of its lifetime.

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The Guardian, 26 Sep 2019: Fight the power: why climate activists are suing Europe’s biggest coal plant