Climate victims fight back
Small island state challenges future of Czech coal plant
Prague 15 December 2009 – The Czech Ministry of Environment publicly confirmed today that it has received a request from the Federated States of Micronesia for a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of its biggest coal-fired power plant, Prunerov (1). This is the first time that current or future climate victims could legally influence a foreign industry by arguing that it endangers them due to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Micronesian islands, in the Pacific, are on the front line of climate impacts especially sea-level rise, changing weather patterns, and increased storms. Prunerov is one of Europe’s biggest coal power plants. (1) The plant’s operator, CEZ, wants to increase the generating capacity of Prunerov but refuses to build new blocks in compliance with efficiency standards according to EU guidelines.(2)
“As ministers and heads of state arrive in Copenhagen to try and agree a climate saving deal this week, small island states are starting to take matters into their own hands in a bid for survival. If successful, this legal challenge could have serious implications for climate changing industries worldwide.
“Climate change is a global problem and communities whose lives are impacted by emissions from foreign industries have the right to push for a global solution. We support Micronesia’s request and demand a phase out of dirty coal plants in the Czech Republic and around the world,” said Jan Rovensky, climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace Czech Republic.
Greenpeace has calculated that Prunerov’s carbon dioxide emissions are currently responsible for up to 45 deaths and 48 000 negatively affected people every year. The retrofit will prolong carbon dioxide emissions from the plant by another 25 years. (4)
CEZ have violated legal regulations and ignored concerns raised by communities living near the plant and the Ministry of Environment. It plans to use out-dated technology to modify Prunerov so it can be operated for 25 more years. Greenpeace is demanding that CEZ decommissions Prunerov by 2016.
“By demanding a transboundary EIA, the Government of Micronesia hopes to determine what impact the increase of emissions from the extended operation of the plant will have on the climate and on small Pacific Island States.
It is important to give communities which are immediately vulnerable to climate change the chance to take legal action to protect themselves against climate polluters wherever they are. However, only a fair, ambitious and legally binding global treaty in Copenhagen this week will provide the level of protection needed to secure a future for billions of people around the world, including Micronesians.
“This week’s deal must be legally binding and include commitments by rich countries to make far deeper emissions cuts – nothing short of 40% by 2020.
It must also include USD 140 billion a year so that states like Micronesia can adapt to climate change and invest in clean technologies. All the elements of a good climate deal are on the table, the only one missing is political will,” concluded Jan Pinos, campaign director of Greenpeace Czech Republic.
Notes for editors:
(1) International assessment of the project is complicated by the fact that CEZ has consistently refused to include climate impacts in the EIA documentation, although this required by Czech law. There is not a single word about climate in the 250 pages of EIA documentation submitted by the utility (while the marginal impact to local protected areas is covered by nine pages). CEZ consequently state that the climate impacts of the Czech Republic’s largest power plant are “totally marginal and improvable”.
(2) Prunerov is the 18th largest single source of CO2 emissions in Europe (data from 2007). Total annual emissions from Prunerov consist of 10 million tons of carbon dioxide. It is 40 times more than the annual emissions of the entire Micronesian Federation, and 10% more than the iconic British power plant, Kingsnorth.
Czech Republic’s total CO2 emissions (2007): 129.949 million tons Prunerov power plant total emissions (2007): 10.103 million tons Federated States of Micronesia total CO2 emissions (1994): 0.23 million tons
(3) The current net thermal efficiency of Prunerov is 32 %. CEZ wants to replace the current power plant with new one with planned net thermal efficiency off 38 %. This plan is in substantial conflict with European and Czech law, which requests net efficiency of new power plants of at least 42 % (which still means that 58 % of energy content of the fuel is wasted through the cooling towers).
(4) The range of the current victims of Prunerov is calculated to be in the interval of 24 to 45 deaths and 26 174 to 48 684 people affected by climate change a year. This calculation is based on figures of current climate change victims (World Humanitarian Forum: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, 2009), CEZ’s figures on Prunerov’s share current global GHG emissions (161 ppm) and an estimation of the proportion of anthropogenic GHG emissions currently causing climate change.
Most of the consequent deaths are caused by increases of vector diseases due to rising temperatures, a smaller number are direct victims of floods, droughts and other extreme weather events.
Jan Rovenský, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace Czech Republic
tel: +420 723 623 238, e-mail:
Lenka Boráková, spokeswoman of Greenpeace Czech Republic
tel: +420 603 443 140, e-mail:
Ben Jasper, international projects co-ordinator of Greenpeace Czech Republic (now available in Copenhagen)
tel.: +420 722 459 794, e-mail:
Micronesian office which made the request
OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENT & EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PO BOX PS-69 Palikir, Pohnpei FSM 96941
Phone: (691) 320-8815/8814, Fax: (691) 320-8936
101, Weavers Way,
UK – London, NW1 0XG
Tel: + 44 20 7388 3141
Filed under: Climate Change Law