The European Union has approved a set of regulations aimed at reducing pollution from power plants in the region.
Campaigners have welcomed the new limits, claiming that they could save more than 20 000 lives every year by improving air quality. They were voted through in spite of opposition from coal-burning states such as Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.
The regulations impose stricter limits on emission of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter from large combustion plants (LCPs). EU states will have until 2021 to meet the new limits.
The European Power Plant Suppliers Association (EPPSA) welcomed the new regulations, calling them “an important step in the right direction”. It added: “EPPSA believes that for most of the existing LCPs, the implementation of the conclusions are economically and technically feasible through the state-of-the-art technologies currently available in the market.”
The rules will apply to all of Europe’s coal-fired power stations, which represent some of the biggest single-point sources of emissions, as well as to peat, oil, gas and other power plants, including offshore rigs.
The updated limits will have consequences for fossil fuel investments across Europe and may fatally undermine plans for new coal projects in the Balkans, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
“This is finally some good news on tackling air pollution,” said Christian Schaible, EEB policy manager. “Tried-and-tested techniques exist to filter out or reduce harmful fumes yet the decision as to whether to use them is too often left to plant operators, who simply do whatever is cheapest.”
Around 280 coal-fired plants in the EU produce nearly 25 per cent of EU-generated electricity, but also account for more than 70 per cent of EU sulphur dioxide emissions and 40 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the industry sector.