Belchatow is a giant coal plant in Central Poland, burning 45 million tonnes of lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, every year – an entire tonne every second.
Over its lifetime, the plant has emitted approximately 1 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, making it the largest single greenhouse gas emitter in Europe. Its annual emissions, roughly equivalent to the sum total of New Zealand’s, are rising year on year.
The plant is a major climate culprit but its owner, PGE GiEK, has not presented any official plan to reduce its climate impacts, said the ClientEarth Foundation in a statement.
The environmental group is demanding that the plant operators stop burning lignite in the plant – or take measures to eliminate its CO2 emissions – by 2035 at the latest.
Marcin Stoczkiewicz, ClientEarth Foundation’s Head of Central and Eastern Europe said: “Belchatow Power Plant has provided Poland with vital power for decades but times have changed. The largest emitters, like Belchatow, must shoulder their share of responsibility for the climate crisis. Without a rapid coal phase-out, the climate fight will be futile.”
The lawsuit leverages Polish civil law in a completely new way, focusing on the environment as a common good, which NGOs can go to court to protect.
This includes demanding installations and their owners cease activities which are causing harm to the environment.
Marcin further added “This is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, seeking to hold coal plant operators to account for the direct impact their operations have on the planet and the surrounding environment. To protect the planet we rely on, we need to see a drastic reduction in carbon emissions and we are using litigation to accelerate the process.”