Katowice, Poland  – The Climate pilgrimage from the Vatican to COP24 arrived at its final stop in Imielin, 20 km away from Katowice, where the pilgrims met with the local community who are fighting against a coal mine extension by the EU’s largest mining company – PGG. Both groups took part in a Mass and took a photo with a light sign to send the message: ‘Save climate, save people’.

The people of Imielin are protesting against the Piast-Ziemowit mine extension in the Imielin-Północ coal field. According to PGG plans, coal will be extracted from shallow deposits starting at 180 metres below the surface. The mining company plans to use an aggressive and cheap method of production, which could cause extensive damage to the ground. The coal mine also threatens an underground water reservoir beneath the town.

Alicja Zdziechiewicz from the local group, ‘Green Imielin’ said: “Imielin is a good place to live. We want to keep raising our children here. When we built our houses, we were informed by the mining company that they would not dig in this area. We fear for our health and for our lives, because our houses are not built with extra safety measures needed in coal mining areas. According to experts opinions, the mine may cause severe damage, already observed in neighbouring communities.”

During his speech in St Mary’s Church in Imielin, Yeb Saño, who is leading the pilgrims, sympathised with the struggle of people of Imielin: “We believe that Imielin, as one of our host communities, is a sacred green oasis, and we stand with you in defending your homes, your water, and your community from the expansion of the coal mine by PGG. We stand with you and  your wish to raise your families in peace here in Imielin”.

“Pope Francis has time and again reminded people around the world that the ‘destruction of nature is a modern sin’. Climate change is causing more severe storms, desertification and sea level rise. That is why we are calling on world leaders to act boldly to stop climate change as we show our solidarity with the people of Imielin,” said Saño.

The participants in the climate pilgrimage come from all over the world – Asia, the Pacific countries, America and Europe. They walked 1500 kilometres from the Vatican to Katowice, where the UN climate summit is taking place, to raise attention to the fact that millions of people across the globe suffer from climate crisis and catastrophes, such as drought, floods and typhoons.

The city of Imielin is a symbol of a decline of social acceptance towards coal in Upper Silesia, Poland, one of the last remaining coal mining regions in Europe. According to an opinion poll conducted in November 2018, 65% of the region’s inhabitants back Poland’s coal phase-out by 2030. [1]

Marek Józefiak of Greenpeace Poland said: “Upper Silesia is no longer solely a coal region, it has many faces. We need to protect the climate and transform our energy system. The decision makers should stand up to these challenges and focus on a just transition for the region. They need to ensure that the decline of mining jobs will not cause social problems and that people will be able to find decent jobs in other sectors.”

On Friday, December 7th, the pilgrims will visit schools in Imielin and later that day they will leave for Katowice, where they will finish their journey and meet with the Catholic community and archbishop Wiktor Skworc.

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Pictures will be available here and video will be available here.

Notes:

[1] Public opinion poll: ‘Poles and inhabitants of Silesia towards phase-out of coal’: http://www.greenpeace.org/poland/pl/press-centre/dokumenty-i-raporty/Stosunek-Polakow-do-odejscia-Polski-od-produkcji-energii-z-wegl

Contact:

Izabela Urbańska, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace Poland ,+48 664 066 378, izabela.urbanska@greenpeace.org

Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours