Now the talking’s over, it’s time for action to cut power plant emissions

Power plant with smokestacks in the middle of nowhere

Today a major step has finally been made towards agreeing new environmental standards for European power plants. Stakeholders provided final opinions on a revised technical document outlining best practice for Large Combustion Plants in Europe. Attempts to delay a vote by Member States to adopt the so-called ‘LCP BREF’ must now be resisted.

Christian Schaible, EEB Industrial Policy Manager said:

“This new document, already more than two years late, must now be formally adopted and published in the EU Journal without delay. 45,500 additional deaths have been caused by coal plants alone because of the delay in adopting these standards. Now the talking is finally over, it’s really time for action.”

However, despite the fact that reduced emissions will protect human health and the environment, many Member States have worked hard to dilute and further delay the new standards. A recently leaked letter from ministers from the Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Poland and the United Kingdom appears to seek to delay the already more than two year late BREF even further.

Christian Schaible continued:

“National Governments demanding further delays in order to asses the economic and technical viability of Best Available Techniques are being disingenuous. The techniques in question are in no way experimental or groundbreaking, they are tried-and-tested and proven to reduce pollution, in many cases having already been successfully deployed for decades. The economic viability for industry must be considered against the bill currently paid by citizens in the form of air pollution’s enormous associated health costs: more than €62 billion in 2013 alone.”

The recent report ‘Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud’ highlighted the benefits of reducing emissions and the costs of dangerous exceptions to the minimum standards set in European law. Yet the final LCP BREF contains numerous loopholes allowing the very worst polluters permission to exceed limits already being met in other parts of Europe.

Christian Schaible concluded:

“Some of the exceptions in the text are, shockingly, literally breathtaking. The health costs to citizens are the greatest in the countries that have already secured exemptions from existing EU minimum limits, such as Poland and the UK. Yet even after the revised LCP BREF is adopted, big coal-fired plants older than 40 years and particularly polluting lignite in those countries will be rewarded with a ‘polluters premium’. The most polluting plants will be allowed to continue churning out toxic fumes beyond 2024 while plants in other countries are already demonstrating the techniques that can reduce these emissions.”

“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. We cannot afford further delays.”

Further reading:

The leaked ministerial letter.


On the potential health benefits of the new limits:

Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives. EEB, CAN-Europe, HEAL, Sandbag and WWF, October 2016.


Country-specific data sheets showing benefits of stricter limits on coal pollution from Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud report:


A detailed report on the topics covered in the meeting:

Detailed notes on the main discussion points and Member State positions

Now the talking’s over, it’s time for action to cut power plant emissions
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