Silent Killers

New report finds failing EU carbon market threatens effectiveness of 2030 climate proposals

Publication - June 11, 2013
A Greenpeace International report on the health effects of coal power


Breathing should not be life threatening. Children should not get asthma or suffer development problems from the air they breathe while playing. Of the fundamental rights in this world, being able to breathe clean, fresh air should be one of the most important. Apparently, it isn’t to governments and energy producers in Europe.

In Europe, 300 plants burn coal to produce electricity, spewing out millions of tonnes of pollution every year. Hour after hour these plants fill the air with toxic pollutants, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and tiny sulphate and nitrate particles that go deep into people’s lungs. Pollution from coal is a silent killer. The air breathed in Europe harms everyone – babies, children and adults, especially the elderly. An estimated 22,000 people died prematurely in Europe in 2010 because of toxic emissions from coal plants.

Coal-fired power plants are also the largest source of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that have already changed our climate. Continued coal burning will cause even more catastrophic climate change. The hundreds of thousands who die now from climate change will grow to millions within decades.

This year is supposed to be the EU’s “Year of Air”. Yet, Europe’s politicians are not stopping the more than 50 new coal-fired power plants being built or in the development stage that will increase the death toll. The coal industry will continue to have a licence to kill for decades. This death toll from coal must be stopped.

Greenpeace, working with other civil society organisations, has helped stop dozens of coal-fired power plant projects from taking off in Europe. More needs to be done. European politicians must take action to remove the world’s deadliest source of electricity. The solution is right in front of them: renewable energy. Through our Energy [R]evolution, Greenpeace has developed a sophisticated scenario that could transition Europe from coal to an energy system based on clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. A clean energy system would be good for the climate and for public health. It would create sustainable, clean power, thousands of new jobs, and economic opportunities. By driving the development of clean energy, Europe could end the energy poverty of approximately two billion people.

It is time for European politicians to phase out coal and lead the transition to clean energy and clean air. It is time for them to lead the way in healing the planet and improving the quality of life for all.

JN449 - Silent Killers