'Global Shame' declared on coal plant

Activists climb the chimney of the Prunerov II

Feature story - 22 March, 2010
Twelve Greenpeace activists have climbed the 300 metre high chimney of the Prunerov II coal-fired power station, in the Czech Republic, and hung a banner denouncing plans to extend the life of climate changing plant as a ‘Global Shame’.

CEZ is pushing to extend the life of the coal plant that is the largest source of Czech emissions, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxides.

The Czech government doesn’t seem to care about the problems it’s causing in places like the Pacific.  Despite objections from the Federated Sates of Micronesia (FSM), a nation whose existence is threatened by climate change, the Czech government is hell bent on extending the life of the country’s single biggest source of carbon emissions. Now Greenpeace is taking action.

Terapii Williams from the Cook Islands has come to Prunerov to support this action. He warned: "Pacific nations are endangered by rising sea levels and rising sea temperatures. Our homes are threatened and the marine ecosystems on which we depend are being damaged.  The very existence of whole nations and cultures is at stake. If industrialised countries like the Czech Republic continue to fuel climate change, we are doomed." 

Update - March 24th: The activists have now come down. The minister which previously refused to talk with is now willing to meet with Greenpeace. We will keep you updated on hown this situation evolves.

Click here for the lastest video from the Chimney stack

That would increase the risks to the people of the Federated States of Micronesia like other Pacific Islanders who face losing their homes, food, culture and traditions due to the impacts of climate change. Impacts caused in large part by climate killing coal stations.

The biggest carbon emitter in the country

Prunerov is a huge power station - the single biggest carbon emitter in Czech Republic; its annual emissions are approximately 40 times those of the entire country of FSM. Prunerov is reaching the end of its life, and its operator, CEZ, wants to expand it and keep it open for 25 more years. Burning coal is the single biggest cause of climate change. Not only does CEZ plan on continuing the use of the climate destroying fuel, it is also trying to avoid the few regulations that would force the new blocks to emit less. Under Czech law, CEZ is legally obliged to assess the climate impacts of the plan, but they have refused to do so. 

We are not certain if our biggest threat is from ocean acidification that will erode our islands from underneath, or from sea level rise that could submerge our islands under the sea, or from changes in weather and typhoon intensity that could make inhabiting our islands impossible. But we know that our continued peaceful existence is totally at risk. We know that the enemy that gives rise to these threats is climate change. And we know that to survive, we must act now.

President Mori of the FSM

Transboundary consequences

In December, FSM submitted their opinion in a transboundary Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) of the new plan, stressing that climate impacts of the project had not been assessed by CEZ and asked for the expansion plans to be dropped.

Made up of over 600 low-lying islands in the Pacific, FSM is put at a high risk by CO2 emissions. Both sea-level rise caused by climate change and land erosion caused by ocean acidification are causing great concern there - and both are caused by the kind of carbon emissions that monster power-plants like Prunerov produce.

More than the butterfly effect

Major emitters have to stop living under the impression their carbon addiction doesn't have consequence. Coal burned on one side of the world is threatening the existence of countries on the other side like FSM - it's not simply a butterfly effect but a direct consequence.

A report by Det Norske Veritas, commissioned for the Environment Ministry, found that the plans submitted by CEZ did not meet the technical standards required. When Environment Minister Dusik told his Prime Minister he intended to reject CEZ's plans he was told that was impossible. Rather than accept this he resigned. It is indeed a dark day for the Czech Republic when a minister must do the bidding of a corporation or resign. But we applaud Dusik for taking a stand.

This fight isn't over: building permits need to be obtained, complying with pollution prevention control. Greenpeace will continue to oppose the building of this coal power plant, and demand the phase out of other coal plants around the world for the sake of the people in small island states like those in the Pacific, who will be hit fastest and hardest by climate impacts.

But, when it comes to climate change the whole world is a small island state and we must phase out coal use for all of our sakes. The technology to power the world with clean energy exists - we need to give it a chance and start an Energy [R]evolution. FSM and other low lying countries' existence depend on it.

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