Legal action has been taken against Europe’s largest power plant, Belchatow in central Poland, announced environmental lawyers Client Earth yesterday (September 26).
Client Earth said they are taking on a lawsuit to hold the Belchatow coal plant owner, PGE GiEK, liable for environmental and climate harm under a Polish law that designates the environment as a ‘common good.’
The plant, whose annual emissions are roughly the total sum of New Zealand’s, has been in operation since 1988 and burns 45 million tonnes of lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, every year.
According to Client Earth, over its lifetime, the plant has emitted approximately one billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, making it the single largest single greenhouse gas emitter in Europe.
Poland is one of the most polluted countries in the EU with around 48,000 air-pollution related deaths every single year. In 2015 it was recorded that per 100,000 people, 125 people were subject to premature death due to air pollution.
Poland has substantially larger reserves of hard coal and lignite and so it makes good use of these resources for energy production. 50.8% of the country’s total energy supply in 2015 came from coal.
Client Earth’s head of Central and Eastern Europe, Marcin said: Belchatow Power Plant has provided Poland with vital power for decades but times have changed. The largest emitters, like Belchatow, must shoulder their share of responsibility for the climate crisis. Without a rapid coal phase-out, the climate fight will be futile.
The Polish government is taking some small steps to deal with the air pollution issue. On Septemeber 1 the burning of solid coal for personal use was banned. Individuals will face a fine if found burning coal on stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces, but using coal on an industrial level is still common throughout the country.
Environment Journalhas contacted PGE GiEK for a statement.
In related news, India has overtaken China and Russia to become the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the world. SO2 is one of the main pollutants from coal power stations.
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