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ClientEarth Communications

27th September 2020

Fossil fuels

Europe’s largest coal plant: five reasons to bring a lawsuit

Belchatow power plant in Poland is Europe's largest coal plant – the single largest greenhouse gas emitter in Europe and a major contributor to climate change. This week our climate lawyers launched a lawsuit to demand it stops burning coal – or take measures to eliminate its CO2 emissions – by 2035 at the latest.

Under Polish law, environmental organisations can bring legal action if they believe a specific activity is harming the environment – because the environment is a ‘common good’ that everyone deserves to enjoy.

Here are five facts that illustrate why we’ve brought a case against the largest coal plant in Europe:

  • Its CO2 emissions are equivalent to the whole of New Zealand and are rising year on year

In 2018 Belchatow produced 38m tonnes of CO2 – that’s the equivalent of New Zealand’s entire national emissions and makes it the most climate-damaging power plant in the European Union. What’s more, the plant’s emissions are rising year on year but its owner, PGE GiEK, has not presented any official plan to reduce its climate impacts.

  • Its coal mines are so large they can be seen from space

Lignite (the dirtiest form of coal) is so heavy and wet that transporting it is very difficult. So, Belchatow is surrounded by huge mines that measure 12km long, 3km wide and 200m deep - that’s the equivalent size of 5,000 football pitches.

  • It wants to expand its mines further to destroy 33 villages

As its current mines are exhausted, it’s hoping to create a new pit to mine for coal. Proposed plans are to displace seven billion tonnes of rock. In doing so it would also release five tonnes of mercury, 26 tonnes of cadmium and 168 tonnes of lead every year. (Not to mention some major predicted methane emissions). These highly toxic chemicals are environmentally devastating.

Read more about our fight against coal

  • The plant creates its own weather system

Its chimney stacks are so high (300m tall) that they create their own weather system around the plant. The toxic emissions that are pumped out of those towers have a devastating climate impact.

  • It burns a tonne of coal every second…

This article takes on average 3 minutes to read – in this time Belchatow has burnt 180 tonnes of coal. To protect people and the planet, Europe urgently needs to move beyond coal. It’s time to stop digging.

Will you spare 3 more minutes to donate and support our work fighting coal across Europe?

Donate today