Pacific Islanders' Challenge to Coal Power Plant

For most Europeans, it would be hard to find the Federated States of Micronesia on a map. But the small Pacific island nation is trying to punch above its weight. The country — with a population of 110,000 spread across more than 600 islands — is challenging the refit of a coal-fired power plant in the Czech report, according to Reuters. Micronesia says the 1,710 MW plant is a direct threat to its survival. The case could be the first time one country has tried to use another’s laws to block construction because of climate change fears.

As the Prunerov power plant near the Czech-German border produces 40 times more carbon dioxide each year than all of Micronesia combined, the Pacific islanders may have a point. And under international treaties, European countries must consider the global impact of their infrastructure when carrying out plant environmental impact assessments. In an interview with Reuters, Andrew Yatilman, director of Micronesia’s Office of Environment and Emergency Management, says the country will wait to hear whether Czech officials green-light the power plant’s refit before taking further legal action.

In part, Micronesia’s saber-rattling stems from the muted outcome at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December, 2009. While no one came away from the summit happy, island nations were particularly angry that they’re goals, such as keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, were largely ignored. The legal confrontation in the Czech Republic could well turn out to be a PR stunt to keep their cause alive.

That doesn’t mean more legal challenges to polluting infrastructure in the West (and possibly in large emerging giants) may now be in the works. One thing’s for sure. Utilities looking to make billions of dollars in investment will be keeping a close eye on Micronesia’s legal battle in central Europe.

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