In The Guardian, Arthur Neslen and Rob Evans recently wrote that new rules intended to combat air pollution from EU power plants could be weaker than coal standards currently in place in China, a nation both ashamed of and reviled for its poor urban air quality. A Greenpeace study has found that the new pollution limits the European Union is discussing for large industrial and power plants are several times weaker than what the best performing plants have managed to do in other developed economies, including the US and Japan.
Lawrence Carter, a Greenpeace UK climate and energy campaigner, notes:
“Our investigation further reveals that what EU officials identify as the required ‘best available techniques’ to reduce harmful emissions would in reality allow several times more toxic pollution than those already adopted by many coal plant operators around the world. In other words, they are not the best available techniques. This is important, since the process of agreeing new pollution standards was set up to tackle” harmful health impacts of industrial emitters.
Carter also points out that the European Environment Agency reports that toxic fumes from the EU’s coal-fired generating stations caused an estimated 22,300 premature deaths in 2010. A separate study by the Health and Environment Alliance on the UK total alone saw over 1,500 deaths per year.
Apparently, industry lobbyists comprise over half (183 of 352) of the key official group formulating the new EU limits. Worse yet, in dozens of cases, staff members of coal firms are taking part in the process — not as formal industry representatives, but as official member state government delegates.
Carter called the situation “a classic case of allowing the fox to guard the henhouse.” Hans ten Berge, the secretary-general of Eurelectric, which represents Europe’s electricity companies, has stated the following:
“Looking at the potentially high number of power plants which we will still have to close and the very limited scope for investing in this area, I think it is logical that industry should have expressed a strong interest in keeping their ability to supply much-needed balancing power alive.”
In its report, Greenpeace implicates delegations from Britain, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, France, and Spain in driving the limitation of proposed controls. In all, says The Guardian, EU states submitted more than 8,500 comments, a number considered “exceptional.” It’s too bad Europe looks to be setting up weak standards for coal plants, considering its important leadership in funding green international activities and forwarding Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the UN’s proposed Paris climate accord.
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