Chemical factory in the morning, with pipes and polluting smoke, long exposure
Effective emissions limits could save thousands of lives every year, yet more than half of coal power stations in Europe are operating with ‘permission to pollute’ above limits set in EU law. These are the findings of a new report ‘Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives’ (auf Deutsch) published today by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, WWF and Sandbag.
Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud’ shows how improving environmental performance at European coal power stations could save 20,000 lives every year. By setting and enforcing pollution limits in line with the best industry-recognised, tried-and-tested techniques, the annual number of premature deaths caused by burning coal could be reduced from 22,900 to 2,600 deaths.
The report also finds that current legislation is failing to deliver its intended health benefits because special exceptions have been granted that allow for emissions over the agreed ‘safety net’ levels. At the time of publication,more than half of the coal power plants in Europe have ‘permission to pollute’ beyond the limits set in the Industrial Emissions Directive.
Before the end of the year, the EU and Member States will have the opportunity to adopt improved environmental performance standards, the ‘revised LCP BREF’. By agreeing these standards and implementing effective limits on coal pollution, real progress can be made in improving the health of people across Europe. The revision process has already been delayed for more than two years, leading to 5,600 unnecessary deaths and a total health bill of more than 15.6 billion euros.
“The best available techniques we call for in this report are all tried-and-tested and were already being demonstrated under technically and economically viable conditions decades ago. The EU considers itself a world leader on environmental issues but when it comes to coal, decision makers have their heads stuck in a dark cloud!”, says Christian Schaible, Policy Manager on industrial production from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).”
Medical professionals have expressed support for the report; “Air pollution kills,” says Professor Bert Brunekreef of the European Respiratory Society. “Experts in lung health want to see immediate remedial action. Inaction cannot be justified when it is human health and lives that are at stake.“
As there are no techniques which completely eliminate emissions from burning coal and with coal power plants responsible for 18 per cent of all of Europe’s greenhouse gases, truly lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud will require the complete phase-out of coal power in favour of sustainable renewable energy sources and reduced energy consumption.