220630192316 01 greece coal energy climate cnnphotos super tease

This nation is scorching in warmth wave and wildfire, but it’s returning to the planet – cooking coal


Mitaris, whose father additionally labored in coal mining, purchased a 44-acre winery. But now he is questioning if he made the appropriate alternative – refusing to surrender coal right here.

“I’m scared about the future,” he stated. “I have two little daughters to take care of.”

Just a yr in the past, Greece was assured it might shut all present coal-burning crops by 2023. It plans to construct one final coal plant this yr within the wider area the place Mitaris resides, western Macedonia, which generates greater than half the nation’s electrical energy. The new plant, Ptolemaida 5, will run on pure fuel in 2025, one other polluting fossil gas, however one that’s usually much less carbon-intensive than lignite, or brown coal, discovered on this a part of Greece .

That total timeline is up in smoke now.

Greece grapples with fire that forced hundreds to evacuate on Lesbos island
The deadline to finish the usage of coal in any respect present crops has been delayed from 2023 to 2025, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lately instructed that the brand new Ptolemaida plant ought to realistically get replaced by coal till at the least 2028. will must be lit. And Greece is planning Increase your coal mining output by 50% To meet the scarcity of pure fuel over the subsequent two years, as Vladimir Putin tightens the faucets flowing into the European Union.

Already the modifications are dazzling. In June 2021, coal generated 253.9 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electrical energy. This June, coal accounted for 468.1 GWh, nearly double that.

And that is because the nation grapples with wildfires on the mainland and its islands, fueled by a fierce warmth wave supercharged by local weather change—which comes principally from people’ burning of fossil fuels like coal. Fires have left properties ashore, folks rescued from seashores and enterprise house owners on islands like Lesbos are going through a financially painful vacation season.

Dimitris Matisaris' father, a retired PPC worker, fills a bottle of wine at his son's winery.

When authorities plans hold altering, it’s tough to make main life decisions, reminiscent of the place to reside and work. For Mitaris, leaving his village the place he was born and raised will not be an possibility proper now.

He stated, “My wife used to work in a dairy factory, which closed a few years ago. They offered her a job in Athens, but then my salary was enough to support the whole family, so we decided to stay. decided.” “If I had known we were in the same situation as we are now, I would have gone to Athens at that time.”

The Greek government is trying to convince people that its withdrawal of coal is only temporary. But the resurgence of coal is driving people back into the industry in western Macedonia.

PPC Energy Company has offered stable employment to thousands of people in western Macedonia, where about 1 in 5 is unemployed.

Here – where everyone refers to coal as a “blessing and a curse” – a return to fossil fuels can make all the difference between staying and giving up.

Already, many people have moved to big cities, or even moved abroad, in search of a new life.

a village in decay

In terms of transitioning away from coal, Greece was a success story. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Greece relied only on coal 9% of its energy supply, down from 25% just six years ago. It was the first country in the coal-dependent Balkans to announce a near-term target to end the use of fossil fuels.

But the transition has always had its challenges – primarily, what opportunities can the country offer to former workers in coal cities?

In western Macedonia – which provides 80% of Greece’s coal – the PPC has acquired dozens of villages so that it can mine coal beneath them, moving entire communities to the periphery. And they were lucky.

A general view of the snow-capped Akrini village during winter.

During this peculiar phase – when coal is still being mined but its years are numbered – the residents of Akrini village find themselves unable to move, even with everyone around them. Something crumbles.

The residents here have been in contention with the PPC for more than a decade, saying they are entitled to compensation that will help them relocate from the village, which has been exposed to high levels of ash from coal operations for years . He successfully lobbied for the right to be relocated, which is now enshrined in a 2011 law.

The PPC told CNN in an email that it was not responsible for the people in the village, and did not respond to follow-up questions when presented with legislation stating that they are entitled to rehabilitation assistance by 2021.

Charlambos Mauratidis, 26, doesn’t really know what to do next.

Like Mitaris, he sought to build a new life after leaving his job with the PPC in a coal mine where his father also worked. But Mauritidis never got the same job security as his father. He worked in shifts for eight months on a short-term contract to clean ash from the machinery inside the mine. Instability, low wages and the heavy impact of toxic ash on his health forced him out of the industry.

A general view of the hill where the Charalambos Mauratidis' farm is located in Akrini, with a coal plant in the background.

He now runs a cattle farm, which sits on a hill, overlooking Akrini, as smoke and steam rise from the chimneys and cooling towers of coal plants in the background.

In addition to farming his cattle, he takes on a second job for a solar panel company, usually putting 13 hours a day between them to make a living.

Working for a solar panel company is a green job that provides Mauritidis some additional income. But solar expansion is also taking up more and more land, leaving less for farming or grazing, so it is nearly impossible to get permission to expand agricultural land in Akrini, he said.

Apart from solar farms, all other infrastructure projects in Akrini have been cancelled. Slowly the village is being left to die.

“I started farming, hoping for some kind of more stable future, and now that effort is at stake,” Mauritidis said. “Everyone in this village has reached a dead end.”

what’s next

The Greek government has drawn up a 7.5 billion euro ($7.9 billion) plan to help transform the country from a fossil fuel-based economy to a green innovative nation. Its Just Transition Development Plan, as it is known throughout the European Union, has received 1.63 billion euros in EU funding.

West Macedonia is a focus in the plan and must receive funding, in part, for the country to become a center for renewable energy. And while the plan has been welcomed by many here, many doubt that it can all be achieved in the six years before the last coal plant goes offline.

Moratidis doubts that money will help him.

The outskirts of Charalambos mauratidis' Field in Akrini.

“I am not sure that much of it will reach people like me who run small businesses. Some of the money will go to those who openly support the current government and most of it will go to those who fund these funds. manage,” he said. “History has shown us this. Even during COVID-19, the support extended to large companies and businesses far exceeded the support we received.”

But all hope is not lost. As many workers turn from coal to agriculture, some EU support is trickling in. Just a few kilometers from Akrini, Nikos Coltsidas and Stathis Paskalidis are trying to create a permanent solution for those who have lost their jobs in the green transition, and those interested in engaging in sheep and goat farming.

through them “Proud Farms” Initiative, They act as incubators for Greeks who want to farm in a sustainable way, providing training and knowledge about the latest technologies available to them.
Nikos Koltsidas and Stathis Pascalidis, "Proud Farm Group of Farmers" Founder Initiative.

“We want to build a network of farms that are self-sufficient with respect to the environment and animals, which will demand very little capital from new farmers,” stated Paskalidis, his sheep bleeding into the background.

Coltsidas stated he wished to let the native inhabitants know that farming will not be what it was, and will present a secure future. “It does not require the efforts made in the past, where the farmer had to stay on the farm all day, graze the animals or milk them with his own hands,” he stated.

“Those who are thinking of going back to work in coal should look at all the sectors that are thriving without it,” he stated. “There’s no need to get bogged down in these old models of PPC.”


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