EU’s outdated reliance on dirty coal bad for climate and health


EU efforts to tackle climate change are being undermined by its continued addiction to dirty coal, according to a report published today by a group of environmental and health NGOs. Despite last month taking the title for hottest June since records began in 1880 – with new temperature highs seen on every continent – the EU is in danger of not phasing out emissions from coal quickly enough. The “Europe’s Dirty 30” report exposes the top 30 CO2-polluting power plants in Europe, with Germany and the UK holding the dubious accolade of being in first place. More coal plants were closed than built in Europe between 2010 and 2013, yet coal consumption has risen; existing plants are running more frequently, coal is becoming cheaper and gas more expensive. This heavy use of coal is also impacting people’s health, with the report highlighting the links between burning coal and diseases such as asthma and cancer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently identified air pollution as a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.

The continued use of coal is not only bad for the climate and for health, it is a growing risk for investors, as increased action to limit emissions leaves coal assets worthless. New research from Carbon Tracker also released today shows that governments will have no choice but to reject coal as they work to reduce their CO2 emissions. The research shows how the global transition from fossil fuels to renewables and greater energy efficiency means demand for coal is and will continue to decrease, and that King coal will lose its crown.


MT @CANEurope Phase-out of #coal in EU will be a win-win = Clean air & less health damage from #climatechange






Fossil fuels and renewables


Key Quotes

  • “Each of the largest coal-power stations in Europe is responsible for hundreds of millions of euros in health costs. The sheer amount of pollution they release, apart from the CO2 emissions, contributes to higher levels of particulate matter, which is a major health concern. In addition, only 30 power plants  cause 20 percent of the health costs of the European power sector. The phase-out of coal in Europe will be a win-win, because it will help to achieve clean air for more people, and avoid further health damage from climate change.” – Julia Huscher, Senior Coal and Health Officer at HEAL
  • “The existing EU policy framework on climate, energy and air pollution governing the power sector is not strong enough to achieve the transformation away from coal and towards renewable energy and energy savings. What the EU needs to end its coal addiction are three ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gases, and boost energy efficiency and renewable energy. A structural reform of the ailing EU ETS as well as the introduction of an Emissions Performance Standard for CO2 emissions from the power sector are also key in order to prevent lock-in of the most-polluting power infrastructure.” – Darek Urbaniak, Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office
  • “Europe’s coal addiction is bad for people’s health, bad for the environment and has no place in our sustainable energy future. Significant amounts of emissions could be prevented and reduced if operators would just use state of the art techniques available to them instead of arguing for exemptions. Environmental standards for power plants should first serve to protect the people and the environment in Europe and must be implemented swiftly to do so.” – Christian Schaible, Senior Policy Officer – Industrial Production – at EEB
  • “Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest global source of greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 emissions from coal in the EU are still far too high, as shown by the EU’s ‘Dirty 30 power plants’. The EU needs to tackle coal head on, if it wants to successfully meet its own long-term climate targets.” – Kathrin Gutmann, Coal Policy Officer at CAN Europe
  • “The next phase in Germany’s Energiewende must focus on how to transition away from coal. If Germany and the EU are serious about meeting their climate targets and transform their power sector, a German coal phase-out is key.” – Mona Bricke, European coordinator at Climate Alliance Germany.
  • “Our political leaders are justifiably proud of their record on supporting tackling climate change on the global stage. But they must make sure they’re not saying one thing and doing another.” – Jenny Banks, energy and climate specialist at WWF-UK
  • “The current structural changes in the thermal coal industry are not uniquely linked to climate change regulation, but result from the emergence of alternative cheaper energy in the U.S. Over the past two years, the price of thermal coal in the seaborne market has been steadily declining–to $75 per ton at present from $105 per ton in early 2012–which is putting pressure on a large part of the industry.” – Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Elad Jelasko
  • “It is clear that already in today’s market, the economics of exporting U.S. coal do not add up. Investors need to understand where we will see this kind of structural change in the coal market next.” – James Leaton, Research Director at the Carbon Tracker Initiative

Related Alerts

More Tweets

  • MT @CANEurope  EU’s 30 most dirty polluters revealed. Germany and UK in the lead. #EUDirty30
  • MT@LangBanksNumber of the day: Europe’s most polluting coal power plants revealed today  #Dirty30
  • MT  ‏@WWFEU  Climate efforts undermined by EU’s #coal addiction, new report reveals  #climate #EUDirty30 #EU2030
  • MT@Suss_quatch New report from @CarbonBubble ‘#Carbon constraints cast a shadow over the future of #coal industry