June 3, 2019

Warsaw, 3 June 2019 – Poland has taken a welcome step forward on phasing out coal this week, after state-owned coal utility PGE permanently closed the B1 unit of its Bełchatów lignite-fired plant on Saturday, according to the Europe Beyond Coal coalition.

Bełchatów is the largest and most polluting thermal power station in Europe, and is so incredibly vast that it creates its own weather patterns (1). In 2018 it emitted 3.4 million tons more CO2 than it did in 2016, and over 50 percent more heavy metals – a rise that is under investigation by the Polish Supreme Audit Office (2). The plant was responsible for an estimated 489 premature deaths, 140,000 lost working days and 205 cases of chronic bronchitis in adults in 2016 alone, which culminated in over a billion Euros in health costs (3). The closure of the unit is an important step in Poland’s and Europe’s transition beyond coal and will reduce Bełchatów to 93 percent of its current capacity (4).

“For the several thousand people employed at, or serving the plant, Saturday’s news will not feel like something to be celebrated, but it is an important step in the right direction for the health and wellbeing of communities, the country, and our shared global climate. The transition away from coal is inevitable, but it is critically important that we not only pick up the pace, but ensure that we do not leave behind those workers and communities that helped build modern Europe. This unit closure demonstrates that time is now running short for PGE. Polish and European policy makers should start putting proper plans and financing in place to support coal communities building a better future,” said Kuba Gogolewski, Senior Finance Campaigner Foundation “Development YES – Open-Pit Mines NO”.

Despite Saturday’s ’s announcement, PGE is blindly charging forward with plans of coal-expansion, risking not only huge losses for its shareholders and taxpayers, but giving false hope to coal workers while pointlessly driving people out of their homes. Its long-planned Zloczew lignite coal mine is meant to supply the Bełchatów power plant with coal well beyond 2030. If opened, it will force more than 3,000 people from 33 villages to relocate for a mine that cannot exist in a Poland doing its part to address climate breakdown.

“The much needed 2030 European coal phase has the support of the Polish Academy of Science and 69 percent of Poles. Huge insurers like Generali are dropping coal in Poland and Europe more broadly. Recently, even the heavily indebted Polish utility Tauron announced a shift to renewables. Yet the Polish government and state-owned PGE are standing in the way of change, and risking people’s health, the climate and the country’s future prosperity. This announcement should be welcomed as a sign that the transition to a clean and sustainable economy has begun in Poland,” said Kathrin Gutmann, Campaign Director, Europe Beyond Coal.

Ends

Contacts:

Greg McNevin, Communications Director, Europe Beyond Coal

[email protected], +49 1605 247 857 (English)

Kuba Gogolewski, Senior Finance Campaigner, Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE”

[email protected], +48 661 862 611 (Polish, English, Spanish)

Kathrin Gutmann, Campaign Director, Europe Beyond Coal

[email protected], + 49 1577 836 30 36 (English, German)

Notes:

  1. NASA’s satellites show Bełchatów’s impact on weather (Polish)
  2. Bełchatów emitted 3.4 million tons more CO2 in 2018 than it did two years earlier (https://ec.europa.eu/clima/sites/clima/files/ets/registry/docs/verified_emissions_2018_en.xlsx), and, as reported by ClientEarth over 50 percent more heavy metals like arsenic, zinc, lead, nickel, copper, chromium were emitted between 2016 and 2018. Significant jumps of sulfur and nitrogen oxides were also recorded. In response to the ClientEarth application the Polish Supreme Audit Office last week announced to start an investigation into this matter (https://www.pl.clientearth.org/rosna-szkodliwe-emisje-z-elektrowni-belchatow-clientearth-wnioskuje-o-kontrole-nik/ (Polish).
  3. Last Gasp: The coal companies making Europe sick
  4. With B1 unit closure (370MW), Bełchatów thermal power station still has 5.1 GW in operation consisting of 12 units.
  5. 69 percent of Poles support a 2030 coal phase out according to Greenpeace public poll results (Polish)
  6. Polish Academy of Science (PAN) calls for a coal phase out by 2030 in their Katowice COP2018 memorandum “Safeguarding Our Climate, Advancing Our Society.”

About:

Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu