Ben Jasper is international projects co-ordinator at Greenpeace Czech Republic. Pictured above - occupying the top of the smokestack at Prenerov II coal fired power plant. Below he shares some encouraging news on how a small Pacific Island State is taking a stand against this plant.
This week, reporters in Prague have been buzzing with excitement at the news that there was an official request from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a small Pacific Island State, to participate in the Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (TEIA) proceedings on plans to increase operations at the dirtiest and highest CO2 emitting coal-fired power station in the Czech Republic, Prunerov II. This is the first time a state - particularly vulnerable to impacts of rising sea levels, water supply insecurity and extreme weather events - has used legal provisions to demand information on CO2 emissions from an industrial project - in a foreign country. They are demanding to know how this project in a developed country will effect small island states such as FSM due to global climate change. This offers an exciting new opportunity for current and future victims of climate change to stand up for themselves against dirty energy companies. It is perfectly reminiscent of the classic David vs. Goliath battles for justice and survival.
Prunerov II is a coal-fired power station of monstrous proportions: it emits 10% more CO2 than the iconic Kingsnorth power station in the UK and over 40 times as much annually as the whole of FSM combined! Greenpeace Czech Republic has waged a long campaign with a coalition of Czech NGOs to decrease the damage that this plant does to the climate and the local area. Our activists twice occupied the 300 metre high chimney and most recently hung a huge banner on it saying “STOP CO2” which stayed up there for several days. There have also been numerous other happenings and direct communications with ministers to demonstrate the widespread mistrust and dissatisfaction in the way the giant energy company CEZ runs the power plant.
Now a proposal to increase operations at Prunerov has been submitted by CEZ -- but as usual they are trying to avoid measures to mitigate their impact on the environment in order to maximise profits from the power plant. CEZ wants to build three news blocks - all with new operational parts, but since they will not build new walls and roofs, they claim it is a simple upgrade that doesn't need to abide by stricter EU regulations. It's a bit like having a car, taking out the engine, gear box, exhaust system and all parts which make it drive and saying that because you still have the same doors and outer frame work that it operates in the same way. Try putting the engine of a Skoda in a Ferrari's body and then tell me that it works to the same way – It's ridiculous!
CEZ has consistently shown a complete lack of consideration for the global environment. They have also managed to manipulate the Czech government into awarding them over 68 billion Czech Crowns ($4 billion) of emissions licences for free – thereby denying Czech citizens an important source of funds for investment in clean, renewable technology. Basically, CEZ is a dirty and dishonest company that will stop at nothing to increase profits.
Beautiful Pohnpei Island. FSM.
FSM consists of 607 islands in the Pacific ocean and along with islands like Tuvalu and the Maldives - it is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This is a group of countries that has been so influential throughout the UN Climate Summit negotiations in Copenhagen. They have been consistently calling for a treaty which is fair, ambitious and legally binding and have resisted moves by developed nations to weaken any prospective deal. With this challenge to the plans for the extension of Prunerov II, FSM has once again demonstrated the incredible courage of these small island states to use legal mechanisms to defend themselves and their island homelands.
When European governments realised that environmental impacts do not respect national borders, they signed a Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context in 1991 and it came into force in 1997. The convention comes under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to ensure that activities within the jurisdiction of one State do not cause damage to the environment of another State.
By requesting this transboundary environmental impact assessment, FSM is asking the Czech Ministry of Environment for information about the contribution future operations after an extension of the power plant will have on global climate change and specifically what impacts this will have on the environmental integrity of the islands of FSM. The Czech ministry must inform FSM of its most honest and thorough assessment of Prunerov II so that FSM can decide whether or not to continue with legal action to demand a reduction of the negative environmental impacts caused by future operations.
There is still a long way to go but this request is a fresh starting point for those who are trying to build a clean energy future without the dangers of catastrophic climate change. There is not long to go now in Copenhagen before we see if the leaders of the world are truly working on our side. But at least we now know that there are more ways in which vulnerable communities are able to stand up for their homes and way of life. We will continue fully supporting and promoting their right to do this.