The PNIEC must set a date for the end of coal, 2025 at the latest, to tackle climate change and protect health

The International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA) reminds the Government of Pedro Sanchez that the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), the general lines of which will be presented today, must establish 2025 as the end date for coal. Otherwise, Spain will not achieve the WHO standards on air quality and public health, nor the goals set by the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

The WHO has stated that air pollution is responsible for more than 7 million premature deaths each year, and that 90% of the world’s population breathes air that is below the standards recommended in its Air Quality Guidelines. AQGs are based on a comprehensive body of scientific evidence regarding air pollution and its health consequences, and set recommended thresholds and limits for major pollutants in ambient air. The limit values of pollutants for the protection of human health set by the EU in Directive 2008/50/EC[1] on air quality are for the most part more permissive than those recommended by the WHO. Thus, IIDMA calls on policy makers to rely on the guidelines established by the WHO when developing their environmental policies regarding pollution.

Several Spanish cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, have already exceeded the limits of the Air Quality Directive in recent years. This has led the European Commission to warn Spain to take immediate action, including the opening of infringement proceedings. Spain, where 38,600 premature deaths have been recorded, ranked sixth in the EU for the number of premature deaths in the latest annual air quality report of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The director of Environment and Health of the WHO, Maria Neira, who is currently in Spain, has reiterated on several occasions the importance of an energy transition that bets on less polluting sources of generation. The first step in this transition is the urgent abandonment of energy production with coal, one of the most polluting fossil fuels and one of the main causes of climate change, to whose effects Spain is particularly vulnerable. Air pollution also has significant impacts on the environment, as it can directly affect vegetation and fauna, as well as water and soil quality and the ecosystems they contain. In addition, it can cause acid rain, which could be responsible for the loss of biodiversity due to the acidification of soils, lakes and rivers; or also phenomena such as eutrophication, caused by an excess of nutrients in an aquatic ecosystem, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, and which affects water quality.

“It is imperative that Spain follows the WHO standards on air quality, translating them into environmental regulations, since pollution is one of the main public health problems at the moment and affects the right to life and the right to health. EU air quality standards are much more permissive, yet Spain has also exceeded its pollution limits, something that the European Commission has criticized on several occasions. One of the main sources of pollution in Spain is emissions from coal-fired power stations, so it is a political priority to end coal-fired power production by 2025 at the latest. Public health must be a fundamental criterion for the development of the Energy and Climate Plans, as well as the future Climate Change Law,” says Ana Barreira, director of IIDMA.

*In addition, IIDMA has issued two reports on the elements that the PNIEC should include:

– IIDMA, “Public Participation in the elaboration of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan: an unavoidable requirement”.

– IIDMA, “Analysis of the elements and guidelines for the elaboration of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan”.

Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (OJ L 152, 11.6.2008).