Air pollution from Spanish coal plants linked to 1,529 premature deaths, an IIDMA study says.

Reduced use of coal-fired electricity has resulted in a material improvement in health outcomes for Spanish citizens, according to a new report from the International Institute of Law and Environment (IIDMA). Between 2015 and 2016, air pollution from plants burning coal in Spain is estimated to be responsible for a total of 1,529 premature deaths and 914 hospital admissions, however, comparing the two years shows that a 30% decrease in electricity production from coal over the period has corresponded with a 40.5% decrease in associated health impacts associated.

Presented today by IIDMA during a joint event with the Polytechnic University of Madrid at the Superior School of Industrial Engineering, A Dark Outlook: the aftermath of coal shows this decrease in coal-related health impacts also saved the Spanish population between 499 and 952 million euros. Still, the health impacts of coal burning are estimated to be between 1,871 and 3,568 million Euros for 2015 and 2016. These costs include decreased productivity, such as 371,552 lost work days and 1,350,401 restricted activity days.

Additionally, another figure included in the report is the harmful effects on children’s health associated with coal emissions during 2015 and 2016. The report also finds that Spain’s coal plants are responsible for a total of 20,112 asthma symptom days in asthmatic children and 2,066 cases of bronchitis.

“Health impacts do not only occur in areas where there are coal-fired power plants, but affect the whole of Spain. However, the most serious impacts can be seen in the Autonomous Communities where they are located or in neighboring regions. The IPCC in its latest report has warned that it is imperative to reduce coal-fired power generation. n order to guarantee the right to health of the entire Spanish population, it is necessary for all coal-fired power plants in Spain to close by 2025, at the latest” said Massimiliano Patierno, environmental engineer at IIDMA, and one of the authors of this report.

The presentation of the report was supported by the participation of Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, who highlighted in her presentation how climate change and air pollution impact on the right to life, health and a healthy environment.

“The respect of human rights is fundamental to meet many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Governments at all levels must take urgent measures to comply with the obligations that the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment of the United Nations has indicated in order to make effective the right to breathe clean air. It is also essential to intensify the fight against climate change, which Spain is particularly vulnerable to, in order to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, something that will not happen if Spanish coal plants do not close by 2025 at the latest” said Ana Barreira, director of IIDMA.

The report also points to a number of recommendations, including the need for a : 2025 coal phase-out date to be included in a legally binding instrument such as the future Climate Change Law or the National Energy and Climate Plan, the need for decision-makers to accelerate the closure by 2020 of all plants which have already filed their requests to shut down, the need to follow the WHO guideline values for pollutants, which are stricter than those of the European Union, the urgent need to provide real-time information on emissions from coal plants, and the need for electricity companies which own coal plants to provide sufficient guarantees to ensure that operations of their coal suppliers do not violate human rights in the places where coal is extracted from.

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NOTES

*  IIDMA has produced a video showing how pollution from PM2.5 travelled in 2016, affecting the health of the Spanish population: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw-zUJIwWNY

* To carry out the pollutant dispersion simulation from coal plants emission and later, associate these emissions to certain health impacts, it is necessary to use emission data from each of the stacks. In this report, impacts on health caused by emissions from coal plants have been calculated for the years 2015 and 2016 as they were the last available data divided by stacks and not by industrial complex.

* Children are one of the most vulnerable groups to air pollution. In fact, the 2017 IIDMA report served as the basis for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to address recommendations to Spain reminding of its obligation to protect the rights to health of children and requiring Spain to take measures for its fulfilment.

* This report follows the methodology used in IIDMA’s previous 2017 study, “A Dark Outlook: the impacts on health of coal-fired power plants in Spain during 2014”, as recommended by the World Health Organization and the European Environment Agency.



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