In Turkey, we woke up this week to hear the news that a proposed 1,200 MW coal-fired power plant on a lovely coast of the Black Sea is dead, and now our hope for a better future grows. This is a historic victory for local communities struggling against a project that would have destroyed ecologically significant forest areas and polluted the air. The Gerze community has been actively resisting this project for the last five years. The key element in this resistance is that people from seven to 70 have fearlessly resisted together to protect their environment and their health.
How did we reach this point? The Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation has confirmed that the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Gerze coal-fired power plant has been rejected, remarkably, for the fourth time. With this development, it can also be concluded that the project is dead in the water.
Normally, environmental impact assessment reports are easily approved in Turkey but due to the nationally recognised mobilisation in Gerze, this did not happen. The movement against coal is, therefore, considered the biggest risk confronting investors.
This week’s victory demonstrates that people can and will continue to challenge and stop killer coal plants. All the lawsuits brought against them didn't demoralise them or reduce their courage. The people of Gerze, together with Greenpeace and a huge community supporting them, have won the right to clean air, and a healthy environment.
Still, there are more than 80 coal-power plant projects being planned in Turkey. And in South Africa, more than 90% of our electricity comes from coal. Eskom is building two of the biggest coal-fired power stations in the world: Medupi and Kusile – each nearly 5000MW. Both of these power stations are delayed and hugely over budget, their construction pushing up the price of our electricity. They have also yet to deliver a single minute of electricity into the grid. But it doesn’t stop there, cabinet has recently announced that a third massive coal-fired power station will also be built in South Africa. The intention is to build it in the water-scarce and biodiverse area of the Waterberg in an effort to ‘reignite the economy’.
But just as there is hope that Turkey's energy future will turn a significant corner with renewable solutions moving forward, so there is a similar hope for South Africa. There is simply no future in coal.
This news that resistance to coal-fired power stations can work is encouraging for all countries and communities facing the threat of destructive fossil fuel projects. No matter who you are up against, unyielding resistance works. Examples like Gerze show how together we can end the age of coal.
Pinar Aksogan is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Mediterranean and Melita Steele is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa.