IEA Corroborates Greenpeace India’s Findings On Air Pollution

Coal contributes significantly to air pollution

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Feature story - June 27, 2016
New Delhi, Monday|27th June 2016| The International Energy Agency in its recent report “World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Air Pollution” [1] has reaffirmed Greenpeace India’s previously-stated position on thermal power plants contributing significantly to high levels of air pollution.

The IEA report released today suggests that 85 percent  of particulate matter and almost all of the sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides result from fuel combustion. According to the report around 60 percent of global combustion-related sulphur dioxide emissions originate from coal. The same was also highlighted through Greenpeace India’s latest report “Out of Sight” which depicted presence of SO2 hotspots at the coal consuming hotspots in the country using analysis done on satellite data from NASA.

According to the IEA report:  “Global fuel combustion increases steadily in our main scenario, to help meet a one-third rise in global energy demand. But global emissions of particulate matter are projected to fall by 7 percent, sulphur dioxide by 20 percent and nitrogen oxides by 10 percent over the period to 2040. This de-coupling of trends is due, in roughly equal measure, to the application of air pollution control technologies and the broader global transition to cleaner energy.”

However, despite the drop in the levels of the pollutants, the report suggests that premature deaths globally due to air pollution will rise to 4.5 million in 2040 from 3 million today. Asia will account for for almost 90 percent of the rise in premature deaths and India could see 9 lakh  premature deaths and a reduction in average life expectancy of 15 months because of air pollution by 2040.

Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Climate and Energy, Greenpeace India said, “It is clear that India needs an aggressive shift to clean energy now: there should be no delay in implementing the thermal power plant emission standards and halting the expansion of coal-based power. This is the only way to keep our air quality within breathable limits and reduce premature deaths.”

“The government should move urgently to meet the three recommendations by the IEA: set an ambitious long-term goal for reducing air pollution, create a comprehensive clean air policy package for the energy sector, including both emission controls and clean energy, and ensure effective monitoring and enforcement of emission standards,” said Dahiya.

The IEA report also comments on the standards set in December 2015 for thermal power plants, saying “They are stringent and achievable. Yet they will not be delivered without effective compliance that needs to be closely monitored at the plant level with penalties for non-compliance.”

Dahiya also added that, “If India keeps to its current pathway for providing energy, there are bound to be immediate and long term effects on our health, with people dying day by day. The need of the hour is to look towards comprehensive solutions,  reducing fossil fuel dependence to the minimum, and creating space for renewable energy. The only way to tackle rising health crises due to air pollution is to formulate a comprehensive, systematic and time bound clean air action plan.”

Notes to the Editor:
  1. Link to the IEA report, released on 27th June 2016,
  2. Greenpeace india’s report, “Out of Sight: How coal burning advances India’s Air Pollution Crisis"