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Weak EU coal pollution limits risk 71,000 lives

Current draft proposals for new EU air quality limits on coal-fired plants are too weak and could therefore result in 71,000 preventable deaths across Europe between 2020 and 2029, according to a study commissioned by the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and Greenpeace

Current draft proposals for new EU air quality limits on coal-fired plants are too weak and could therefore result in 71,000 preventable deaths across Europe between 2020 and 2029, according to a study commissioned by the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and Greenpeace.

EEB and Greenpeace claim current proposals for limiting industrial emissions are too weak

EEB and Greenpeace claim current proposals for limiting industrial emissions are too weak

Published today (May 20), the study claims that plans to update the Industrial Emission Directive (IED) currently under discussion at EU level fail to effectively combat the increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer asthma and other illnesses associated with air pollution.

It states that the ‘weak’ plans would allow coal pollution to cause “thousands of additional cases of cardiac and respiratory illnesses” adding that “children would be particularly affected” by more than 200,000 extra cases of acute bronchitis.

The study estimates that under current proposals, between 2020 and 2029 there would be an additional drain on health services and the loss of more than 23 million working days, which could cost European taxpayers more than 52 billion euros (£37 billion).

According to the EEB, the study uses official EU data to model the health impacts of proposed EU emission standards, comparing them to the impacts of standards based on levels achieved by ‘best available techniques’ (BAT) for 290 coal-fired power plants larger than 50MW in size. It was carried out by freelance UK consultant Mike Holland.

Christian Schaible, industrial production policy manager at EEB, said:

“Tightening the levels to what best techniques can actually do will bring huge societal benefits to the EU worth €6.36 billion annually. Policymakers have an ethical obligation to prevent avoidable deaths and long-term impacts on citizens’ health, and are duty-bound to do so by the polluter pays and prevention at source principles.”

Industrial Emission Directive

The EU is currently drawing up new proposals for emissions limits in the Directive for publication later this year, but has drawn criticism from Greenpeace and the EEB for allowing industry representatives from affected energy plants to be included in these discussions (see AirQualityNews.com story).

The UK government said it was “absolutely right” that industry should take part in these discussions, but campaign group Greenpeace and the EEB – which represents 140 environmental groups across Europe – believe industry representatives have been attempting to weaken any future standards.

The IED affects the likes of lignite and coal-fired plants and new standards are would apply from 2020 for emissions such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate matter. An update on the regulations was provided at the recent AQE Show in Telford (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Table from EEB and Greenpeace study

Table from EEB and Greenpeace study estimating health impacts from large current IED proposals (click to enlarge)

The EEB’s Mr Schaible added: “EU decision-makers should not bring ‘state-of-the-art’ environmental standards down to the levels of industry laggards or base them on least-cost options. If emission levels were based on the performance of frontrunners, mercury concentration levels would fall to 1 microgram, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and dust levels made twice as strict and the derogation for sulphur dioxide emissions from low quality lignite scrapped.”

An EU expert group, including EEB representatives, will meet in June to take a final decision on the proposed standards, before Member States are expected to vote on the proposals by the end of the year.

Medium plants

Plans are also moving forward at EU level to regulate emissions from Medium Sized Combustion Plants (between 1-50MW), although environmental organisations have again criticised the proposals for not being strict enough (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Meanwhile, the UK is currently being referred to the European Court of Justice over its failure to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the coal-fired Aberthaw Power Station in Wales (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Related Links:

-EEB and Greenpeace study – ‘Toxic coal: counting the cost of weak EU air pollution limits’

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