EEA warns of high price of industrial air pollution

Air pollution from Europe's largest industrial facilities cost society €189bn in 2012, with half the damage costs caused by air pollutants and CO2 emitted from 1% of plants.

That’s according to an assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA) – Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities – published today (25 November) which suggests that, between 2008 and 2012, the cost of air pollution may have been as high as €1,053bn.


An update on a 2011 report – Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe – the study names the most damaging facilities and the costs incurred in each country. Of the 30 facilities identified, 26 are power-generating facilities fuelled by coal and lignite, mainly located in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Table: Aggregated damage costs by country normalised against GDP, 2008–2012EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx said: “Air pollution is still high in Europe. It leads to high costs: for our natural systems, our economy, the productivity of Europe’s workforce, and most seriously, the general health of Europeans. 

“While we all benefit from industry and power generation, this analysis shows that the technologies used by these plants impose hidden costs on our health and the environment.

“Industry is also only part of the picture – it is important to recognise that other sectors, primarily transport and agriculture, also contribute to poor air quality.”

Damage costs have dropped since 2008 which reflects the lower emissions reported by industrial facilities, perhaps because of new legislation or lower rates of industrial activity caused by the economic recession.

The report concludes with ways to improve industrial facilities, including: more complete reporting of emissions; providing information on the fuel consumption or productive output; more extended data-checking at national level; and improved traceability.


Premature deaths

Last week, EEA published its annual air quality report suggesting that, despite improvements in air quality overall, air pollution is still the main environmental health hazard in Europe, having resulted in approximately 400,000 premature deaths in 2011.

Nearly all city dwellers are exposed to levels of pollutants considered unsafe by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the majority of 2011 premature deaths were caused by fine particulate matter, including black carbon, which EEA identifies as the most dangerous air pollutant for health.

Earlier this month, edie reported on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that reducing emissions of ‘short-lived climate forcers’ (SLCF) such as black carbon will do very little to keep global warming below two degrees in the long run.

Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against the UK Government over its failures to comply with EU air pollution legal limits, following a case brought by environmental NGO ClientEarth. 

Lois Vallely

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