Steam or pollution coming from smoke stack in power plant against blue skies.
The European Commission has today published new standards for Europe’s most polluting power plants, including many large coal-fired power stations. Plants now have four years to meet the new standards, but more than 80% of coal capacity expected to still be online in 2021 is currently polluting too much.
The new standards include tighter rules for emissions of nitrous oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), mercury and tiny pieces of harmful dust known as ‘particulate matter’ (PM). These toxic substances are linked to a host of health and environmental issues including the development of asthma in children and the polluting of Europe’s air and water.
Christian Schaible, EEB Industrial Production Manager and a member of the Technical Working Group that helped to draft the revised standards, welcomed today’s publication:
“These new requirements will help speed up the energy transition as the most polluting plants are closed. While the clock is ticking it’s up to national authorities to decide how much pollution they want to cut; the European rules are just a safety net setting out the minimum action required. Governments that want to see positive results in air quality, climate change and investments in the sustainable infrastructure of the future, must go beyond these minimum requirements.”
An EEB report published last year calculated that the rules have the potential to prevent 20,000 premature deaths every year from coal plants alone. Because the new standards apply not just to coal power stations but to all EU large combustion plants, burning a variety of fuels, the potential health and environmental benefits will be even more significant.
The new standards may seem much stricter, but are in fact based on what is already being achieved by other plants across Europe and around the world. Many European plants are responsible for excessive pollution because they have not been required to invest in ‘abatement’ techniques to reduce their emissions.