Cost of UK industrial air pollution up to €93 million

25th November 2014

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Air pollution from UK industrial plants cost between €40 million and €93 million in the four years to 2012, according to analysis by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The agency has today published data on air pollution from Europe’s largest industrial facilities, and analysed the costs of harmful impacts, including hospital costs, lost working days, damage to buildings and reduced agricultural yields.

Across Europe, 26 of the top 30 most polluting facilities were power-generation plants, mainly fuelled by coal and lignite and located predominately in Germany and Eastern Europe, the EEA found.

Three of the top thirty are in the UK, according to the data. The Drax power plant in Selby ranked fifth, Longannet in Kincardine came 10th and the former Corus steelworks in Redcar was ranked 27th.

Across Europe, the agency estimated the total cost of industrial air pollution at €59 billion to €189 billion in 2012 alone, and between €329 billion and €1,053 billion between 2008 and 2012. Half of the costs were caused by just 1% of the 14,325 facilities assessed.

However, the scale of the financial damage imposed by the plants fell between 2008 and 2012, due to legislation, improving plant efficiencies and the recession, the agency found.

The rankings do not take into account efficiency, and the EEA acknowledged that in some cases larger facilities may be more efficient than several smaller ones.

The report also does not assess whether a facility’s emissions are consistent with its legal requirements, nor does it take into account economic and social benefits generated by the industrial sector.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director, said: “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.”

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said that the report came at a critical moment as the new European commission is considering withdrawing proposed legislation tightening national ceiling limits on air pollution. The economic benefits resulting from improved air quality far exceed the cost of action, it said.

The EEA pointed out that up to €55 billion would be saved across the EU if operators implemented the “best available techniques” abatement standards, which were agreed by the commission and industry to be economically and technically feasible in 2006, but have still not been implemented in many countries, including the UK.

Christian Schaible, EEB senior policy officer, said: “The EU should not allow the most polluting emitters, who make up only 1% of the Europe’s installations, to continue being exempted from stricter emissions standards.

“Cleaning up coal-fired combustion plants alone would yield environmental and health benefits of up to €55 billion a year. These standards were deemed feasible almost a decade ago but operators are still shamefully dragging their feet,” he said.

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