A major Greek court ruling has put the final nail in the coffin for planned power plant Meliti II, and left its sister plant Meliti I operating without legal permission. The decision follows a legal challenge brought, WWF Greece and Greenpeace Greece, by ClientEarth.

© Andrea Bonetti / WWF Greece

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The commitments announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the UN Climate Action Summit, that Greece will shut down all lignite power plants by 2028 and ban single-use plastics by 2021, are welcomed by WWF Greece as bold steps towards reducing the country’s environmental footprint.

For Greece, the phase out of lignite needs to be part of a broader ambitious decarbonisation plan, with one clear goal - zero net emissions by 2040 at the latest. In this context, while WWF Greece congratulates the government on its commitment for lignite phase out, the country’s increasing attention on hydrocarbons, is an issue of great concern. The ongoing hydrocarbon frenzy which started during the economic crisis, threatens to lock Greece’s energy system into a high greenhouse gas emissions model for the next decades.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement for phasing out lignite as a very positive move in addressing the climate crisis. However, we fail to understand why his government at the very same time insists on drilling for oil and gas. Just last week, four new contracts with petroleum companies were submitted by the government to the Greek Parliament for voting, opening new marine areas of 50,000 sq. km to hydrocarbon exploration and drilling. We are asking for consistency in energy policy at a time when science around the climate crisis has become crystal clear – the fossil fuels need to stay in the ground”, says Demetres Karavellas, WWF Greece’s Director General.


With its decisions n. 1606/2019 and 1607/2019, the Council of State annulled the environmental permits of the Megalopolis A and Megalopolis B lignite stations. The annulled permits had been approved by the Environment and Energy Minister without carrying out an EIA, seven years after the previous ones expired. The annulled permits allowed the lignite stations to emit higher levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides than the ones prescribed in EU legislation.

A. Bonetti / WWF Greece

The actions for annulment against the permits were filed in 2017 by the environmental organizations WWF Greece, Greenpeace Greece and ClientEarth.

The repeated failure of Greek electricity utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) to sell 40% of its lignite assets, which was once again confirmed yesterday through the declaration of the sale tender as fruitless, proves beyond doubt that lignite is not only environmentally but also financially detrimental. 

© Marianna Plomariti / WWF Greece

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The global scientific community calls on the Greek Prime Minister to cancel the exploration and exploitation program in the area concerned.

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In their response to the consultation on Greece’s capacity mechanism, the Greek organisations of WWF and Greenpeace note that the potential for the proposed scheme to prolong Greece’s dependence on fossil fuels is the biggest concern. This is through a potential capacity contract for the new 660MW lignite unit Ptolemaida V, currently under construction, refurbishment contracts to extend the life of old lignite plants, and annual contracts to subsidise all fossil fuel power plants year-by-year. These contracts would slow down Greece’s vital transition to 100% renewable electricity system.

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The failure of the bid for the divestment of 40% of the Public Power Corporation’s (PPC) lignite capacity comes as no surprise. Once again, coal proves to be a dying market, unprofitable even if the huge cost on health and environment is ignored.

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By Demetres Karavellas and Nikos Charalambides

While other EU countries, such as Germany, announce plans for coal phase-out within the next 20 years in compliance with their Paris Agreement commitments, Greece’s future appears locked in carbon for decades to come, write Demetres Karavellas and Nikos Charalambides.

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WWF & Greenpeace address EU Commissioners on the opening of Greece’s lignite market

The big lignite sale now happening in Greece, under supervision and pressure by the European Commission, prolongs the country’s dependence on dirty coal and negates the EU’s policies for coal phase-out.

Under the umbrella of antitrust EU rules, the European Commission has been pushing Greece to regulate the sale of PPC coal plants and mines, a process now in its final stages, instead of allowing other viable options leading to rapid coal phase-out. In reality, the Commission’s position leads to new dirty coal, according to terms especially attractive to investors: license for a new 450MW lignite power plant (Meliti II), favourable licensing conditions for operating plants (Megalopoli, supplied by the lowest thermal quality lignite deposits in the EU, and Meliti I).

Through its catalytic role in the big coal sale, the Commission essentially pushes for the revival of an economically dying market, which is also subject to specific environmental regulations as heavily polluting and climate catastrophic. In particular, new investments in coal will seriously undermine Greece’s prospects of meeting its climate obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

In a common letter addressed to Commissioners Pierre Moscovici (Economic and Financial Affairs), Margrethe Vestager (Competition), Karmenu Vella (Environment), Miguel Arias Cañete (Energy) and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič (Energy Union), the Greek and EU offices of WWF and Greenpeace call for:

  • an urgent climate evaluation of the divestment of 40% of PPC’s coal assets,
  • a thorough reconsideration of the sale, in view of the target of achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and meeting Paris Climate Agreement objectives.

Greece should be encouraged to follow the lignite phase-out route which, one after another, its EU counterparts are following, while at the same time financially supporting the just transition of the lignite regions of Greece towards sustainable economic activities.

Read the letter.

Non-transparent and favouritist licensing procedures for oil and natural gas drilling, the deadly wildfire and flood in Attica, non-compliance with decisions of the EU Court of Justice, and financial penalties for illegal waste management, which now exceed 100 million euros, are a few of the developments which set the dramatic scene for environmental protection in Greece.

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