From: ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen, More from this Affiliate
Published March 5, 2015 08:20 AM

Are the EU's air pollution rules weaker than China's?

Europe’s coal plants will be allowed to emit more deadly pollutants than their notorious Chinese counterparts under EU proposals for new air quality rules heavily influenced by the big energy lobby, new research has found.

A Greenpeace investigation has found new pollution limits for coal-fired power plants currently being discussed by the European Union are significantly weaker than those in place in China, as well as several times weaker than what’s already been achieved by the least polluting plants in other developed economies, including the US and Japan.

Greenpeace has also uncovered evidence that the UK and other EU Governments have put representatives of some of the worst polluting industries in charge of actually drawing up the new air pollution rules.

The findings come in the wake of a report by Europe’s environmental watchdog warning that hundreds of thousands of people could die prematurely in the EU over the next two decades if member states fail to tackle air pollution.

Toxic fumes from the EU’s coal-fired power stations caused an estimated 22,300 premature deaths in 2010. A separate study puts the total for the UK at 1,600 per year. As well as being the largest source of mercury emissions in Europe, coal plants release a number of other toxic substances, including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, that are extremely harmful to human health.

Commenting on the findings, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Lawrence Carter said: "This is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse. By leaving the big polluters to write new air pollution rules, EU and UK ministers are guilty of a collective dereliction of duty.

“Toxic emissions are killing thousands of people across Europe every year, but rather than clamp down on polluters, politicians are allowing them to prioritise profit over public health. People in the UK could now end up paying with their health for our Government's sell-out to the coal lobby on a vital issue like air quality."

In its new report, Smoke and Mirrors, Greenpeace exposes for the first time the level of industry infiltration pervading the process tasked with coming up with the new standards. In several EU countries, including the UK, the bodies in charge of drafting the new rules are heavily dominated by a majority of industry lobbyists, who make up over half of the overall number of working groups members across the EU (183 out of 352). 

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, ClickGreen.

Air pollution image via Shutterstock.

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