Greek campaign to stop construction of coal plants 2008-2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
January
2008
to
January
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Greece
Location City/State/Province: 
Greece
Location Description: 
The campaign occurred nationwide. Activists had a particular focus on large cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, and the regions that were going to construct the new coal-fired power plants.
Goals: 
To stop the construction of 5 new major coal-fired power plants across Greece.
 

In July 2007, the Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works published the “General Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development Framework” with no plans for new coal plants in Greece. A month later, the Ministry of Development published the “1st report on the long-term energy planning of Greece, 2008-2020,” stating that 5.6 to 21 percent of Greece’s energy would come from coal in the years 2008 to 2020.

National and international companies expressed interest in building new coal-fired power plants in Greece, and submitted requests to the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE). The RAE was an independent organization responsible for monitoring and processing information regarding the energy market in Greece. The Ministry of Development and the RAE together approved plans for the construction of five new coal plants throughout Greece.

Many Greek citizens opposed the construction of the coal plants because of the predicted environmental and health degradation in the surrounding communities. Coal-fired power plants increased air pollution, water pollution, and released toxins that gathered in food. Activists were concerned that new coal plants would create a deeper dependence on fossil fuels. The coal-fired power plants would increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the effects of global warming. This would be counterproductive to the international agreement that Greece signed called the Kyoto Protocol which was a commitment to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the years 2008 to 2012.

Grassroots organizations, stakeholders, and concerned Greek citizens met for the first time in January 2008 in the major cities of Evia, Viotia, Aitoloakarnania, Kavala, Magnisia, and Evros to discuss opposition to the construction of the new coal plants. A this meeting, they formed Citizens Against Coal, a nationwide organization that allowed communication between local organizations, stakeholders, and citizens to plan nationwide actions.

On 29 January 2008, World Wildlife Fund Hellas Chapter (WWF Hellas) and members from seven local municipalities collaborated to form Coalition Against Coal. Municipality members were from Kavala, Almyros, Astakos, Distomon, Kireas, Antikyra, and Kyriaki, the communities where the new coal-fired power plants were planned to be built. The Coalition Against Coal (also called the Alliance Against Coal) focused their actions on municipalities, politicians, community leaders, and community meetings. They organized a mailing campaign to local and national municipalities and had workshops on coal.

Thousands of citizens from different organizations from Korinthiakos and other parts of Greece met to create a human chain encircling the Korinthiakos Gulf in February 2008,. Their protest symbolized their demand for protection of the environment, the community, and human activities within the Gulf (e.g. fishing) from the damage of coal-fired power plants. The organizations of Panaitoloakarnaniko Front for the Environment, Boeotians for the Environment, and Active Citizens of Evia specifically participated. Imported coal for the new coal-fired power plants was planned to come from China, Ukraine, and countries in North Africa. The new coal imports would require large ports to serve ships weighing 40 to 150,000 tons and would substantially increase the amount of shipping in the Korinthiakos Gulf, Evvoikos, Patras, and Pagasitikos that would cause environmental degradation in these areas.

In April 2008, after a strong public reaction, the Public Power Corporation (the largest electricity company in Greece) announced their rejection of plans for new coal-fired power plants in Kavala, Mantoudi, and Albania. The other plans for new coal-fired power plants were still underway, so the campaign continued.

Citizens Against Coal posted a petition on 7 May 2008 for Prime Minister Konstantinos A. Karamanlis to appeal the remaining plans for coal-fired plants and reject the use of coal in future energy plans. They gathered 3,746 signatures.

Citizens Against Coal and the Coalition Against Coal coordinated a nationwide action called “Week Against Coal” that lasted from 12 May to 18 May, 2008. Activists organized press conferences, petitions, educational events, and demonstrations nationwide, especially targeting the cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, and regions that new coal-fired power plants were planned to be constructed. Some schools around the country participated in the event through workshops, project presentations, and school events. Municipality members of Opountion Fthiotida joined Coalition Against Coal on 30 June 2008, the eighth municipality to join.

In September 2008, activists launched occupations of the Public Power Corporation offices in Thessaloniki. A few days later, activists organized a large “Energy March” within the framework of the Thessaloniki International Fair. WWF Greece sent out letters to the Mayor of Aliveri, and in October the City Council of Aliveri voted against the construction of the coal-fired power plant in Aliveri. The Boeotians for the Environment started an online petition against the construction of coal power plants and industrial plants in the sea of Korinthiakos in September 2008 and gained 966 signatures.

Citizens Against Coal organized a three-day workshop on energy in November, with Civil Society Representatives from Ensdorf, Germany. The Civil Society from Ensdorf had stopped the construction of a RWE energy plant in Germany. At this workshop activists from Greece and activists from Germany were able to share ideas about action tactics to stop the construction of coal plants. They also discussed alternative energy and climate change.

The Ministry of Development presented new energy plans in March 2009 from the National Council of Energy Strategy that prioritized the use and development of renewable energy and natural gas, but did not reject the possibility of coal. Citizens Against Coal met on 28 March, to discuss and continue their actions against coal power. They created a petition rejecting the construction of the remaining coal power plants and coal as an energy source, and a number of organizations signed. WWF Greece sent letters to parties of the Greek Parliament calling for the rejection of coal use in their energy planning.

In November 2009, after new governmental elections, the Ministry of the Environment announced that coal and nuclear energy would not be a part of the energy mix. The Ministry of the Environment rejected all remaining plans for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, a success for the campaign.

The following January of 2010, Citizens Against Coal created the “Energy forum-Citizens Movement for Energy,” a communication forum to encourage further collaborations, joint actions, and exchange of information between individuals, organizations, and stakeholders interested in energy issues.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"About RAE." Regulatory Authority for Energy - Greece. N.p., 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <http://www.rae.gr/old/en/>

Buschman, Celina. "Greek Campaigners Stop the Construction of Coal Plants 2009 (Unpublished Case)." Global Nonviolent Action Database. Swarthmore College, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

"Campaign on Climate Change." WWF. N.p., 2007. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20151218054756/http://climate.wwf.gr/

"Coalition against Coal Fires up in Greece." WWF. World Wide Fund For Nature (also Known as World Wildlife Fund), 18 Feb. 2008. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <https://web.archive.org/web/20151212043407/http://wwf.panda.org/?124980/Coalition-against-coal-fires-up-in-Greece>

Citizens against Coal Nationwide Citizens' Initiative: Movements Against Coal. N.p., 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20151218054707/https://lithanthrakas.wordpress.com/

Frezouli, Ermioni. "Movement against Imported Coal Plants, Greece | EJAtlas." Environmental Justice Atlas. N.p., 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.

<https://web.archive.org/web/20151212042528/https://ejatlas.org/conflict/citizens-against-coal>

Kitsantonis, Niki. "Small Village in Greece Illustrates the Problems of Coal." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 28 Feb. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.<http://mobile.nytimes.com/2007/02/28/world/europe/28iht-greece.4753116.html?referer=&_r=0>

"Ministry of Environment and Energy (Greece)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 04 Oct. 2015.<https://web.archive.org/web/20151212042218/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Environment_and_Energy_%28Greece%29>

"Previous Campaigns." WWF. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. https://web.archive.org/save/http://www.wwf.gr/en/campaigns/previous-campaigns

"The Alliance." The Coalition Against Coal. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20151218055109/http://www.ohiallokarvouno.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=34&Itemid=76

Additional Notes: 
Thank you to Celina Buschman 12/11/2013, for her previous research on this case.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Rebecca Griest 04/10/2015