Media reaction: 8 June 2021

Europe’s biggest coal operation to begin shutdown, Polish authorities announce

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have reacted as Polish authorities announce Europe’s biggest coal complex, Bełchatów, will start to wind up operations.

Under the plan, lignite-burning Bełchatów’s emissions are set to reduce by 80% by 2030 – the equivalent of cancelling a year’s worth of emissions from Croatia.

Ilona Jędrasik, fossil fuel infrastructure lead in ClientEarth’s Warsaw office, said: “The wind is changing – when you see Europe’s biggest coal operation heading into retirement, it’s clear an era has ended.

“Coal has long been stalling, and profitability is collapsing. The most important thing now is to secure a realistic future for those who have been employed by the coal industry up till now, and plan for a low-emissions future. The Polish Government owes this to Polish people and to Europe.”

The Bełchatów power plant is roughly five times the size of an average coal plant and burns a tonne of coal every second.

Two mines currently feed Bełchatów, and another, Złoczew, is planned – though it faces strong opposition. The ŁódĽ region’s Territorial Just Transition Plan, which contains the closure pathway, states that the Belchatow mine will close by 2026, and the Szczercow mine by 2038.

However, the Złoczew mine, which would prompt the relocation of 3,000 people, is still on the table and owner PGE has given no indication they have stopped chasing the licence for it.

Jędrasik said: “We need to see firm proof that PGE is wrapping things up comprehensively. The best and most profitable way forward for the company would be to close 11 of the 12 units by 2030 – not between 2030 and 2035 as the plan currently says. And we need to see all attempts to proceed with the destructive Złoczew mine abandoned. Bełchatów is on the path to closure and this is now set in stone.”


Notes to editors:

The closure pathway for the Bełchatów coal complex is contained in the Territorial Just Transition Plan, published by the authorities in ŁódĽ. The plan is now under public consultation.

Regions that do not demonstrate a plan to exit coal risk not benefiting from the European Commission’s multibillion Euro Just Transition Fund.

ClientEarth took legal action in 2019 to secure a closure date for Bełchatów power plant. A judge ruled in 2020 that the NGO and the company should work together to find a solution to cut emissions from the plant.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.