Commission and governments bow to coal industry pressure on air pollution limits

Press release - June 10, 2015
Brussels/Seville – EU government delegations that concluded a meeting in Seville late last night have backed weak limits for air pollutants from coal plants that would cause thousands of premature deaths, warned Greenpeace [1]. Over half of all delegates are representatives of fossil fuel industries or are seconded to government delegations from industry [2], but, for the first time, these delegates were required to sit behind real government delegates.

Greenpeace EU climate and energy policy director Joris den Blanken said: “The process that sets EU coal pollution limits is seriously flawed. Industry interests have taken control and, as a result, pollution control technologies – already widely applied in China and the US – are being left on the shelf. It’s a disgrace that politicians are prepared to let millions of Europeans suffer the deadly effects of air pollution, just to keep ancient coal plants open. EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella should intervene and ensure pollution from coal plants across Europe is properly curbed.”

Chaired by the European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau, the Technical Working Group (TWG) is the most influential of various bodies involved in drafting the new standards to limit deadly emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate matter.

The coal industry failed to further weaken the standards in Seville, but the limits endorsed by the TWG are very similar to the Commission’s draft from 1 April, which proposed limits weaker than existing standards in China, the United States and Japan [3].

European countries are expected to vote on the proposal early next year, before final adoption in mid-2016 and EU-wide implementation by 2020.

Last week, Greenpeace activists protested at the hotel hosting the working group in Seville. Click here for photo and video material.

Greenpeace supports the rapid phase-out of coal and the development of a 100 per cent renewable and efficient EU energy system by 2050.


[1] Greenpeace and EEB, May 2015, Toxic coal: counting the health cost of weak EU air pollution limits.

[2] Greenpeace, April 2015, Smoke & Mirrors - How Europe’s biggest polluters became their own regulators.

[3] Ibid.

Contact: Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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