Micronesia Asks to Czech Dirty Power Plant

Monday, January 18th, 2010

As those of us keeping track of such things know, the mild, non-binding agreement that emerged out of last month’s COP15 UN climate-change conference in Copenhagen was disappointing to many. Just imagine how much it fell short of the expectations of those island countries, like the Maldives, whose very existence is threatened by the rising sea-levels global warming brings!

But now one of those island nations, the Federated States of Micronesia (that’s who you turn to for your “.fm” Internet domain), has found a novel way to do something about it. I first caught word of this from the Some Assembly Required blog, which provided a link to an article in the New York Times sourced to Reuters (so it must be true, eh?). There you can read all about it: The Micronesia government is trying to intervene to influence the re-commissioning of a coal-fired power plant – one located in Prunéřov, Czech Republic, or around 13,000 km away! It has expressed this intention in two official government-to-government letters, one sent last month (while the Copenhagen conference was going on, apparently), and the second (laying out the technical details of what it objects to in the plant) just last week.

I’ve been able to find Czech-press coverage of this rather extraordinary episode only in that country’s main business newspaper, Hospodářské noviny. But that coverage is pretty thorough. There is a main article, telling the story: Micronesia: Prunéřov is [just] one of a thousand power plants, but it still is damaging us. In addition HN has an exclusive interview in a second piece (conducted by an unnamed reporter) with Andrew Yatilman, Minister of the Environment for Micronesia (We are fighting for our lives, Prunéřov is just our first act, says Micronesian minister).

Actually, in contrast to the impression of cool rage that that headline might give you, you’re really struck much more in the interview by how ad hoc this effort is on the part of the Micronesian government – how they are feeling their way as they go along in this legal initiative without precedent. For instance, Greenpeace (as you might expect) has had a big influence in this whole thing: it was protests carried out in front of the Prunéřov plant in question by Czech Greenpeace activists last month that inspired the idea in the first place, and Greenpeace has cooperated closely with the Micronesian government in providing both legal and technical advice. Will you be trying this with other plants, other governments? asks the reporter. For sure, Yatilman replies, although only after this episode is over and we have a chance to learn from the experience. (Note well that Micronesia is not going so far as to demand that the Czech government shut down the plant, it is only asking to be included in the process for granting it approval to re-open, so it can insist on a range of anti-CO2 emission safeguards.) Are any other island nations ready to join you in these efforts? I don’t know yet, Yatilman replies.

The interview concludes with a bit of unwitting comedy, as the HN reporter inquires whether Minister Yatilman is aware of the attitudes towards global warming of the Czech President, Václav Klaus. He is not; HN informs him how Klaus denies that global warming even exists, that he’s one of the world’s most-prominent climate change deniers. “Good that you say that,” replies Yatilman,

because we got a letter from the Czech Republic that purported to be from the president. But we didn’t really believe that. It wasn’t written on any letterhead stationery and it tried to find out why we were doing what we are doing. As if we weren’t a sovereign state. Underneath was some signature, but whether it was from your president, I don’t know. In any case we didn’t take it seriously.

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