Beijing, Monday June 27 – The IEA’s report on Energy and Air Pollution, released today, underlines the urgency in moving to clean forms of energy if we are to stop millions of premature deaths around the world. The WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates that 3 million people die every year from outdoor air pollution from fossil fuels.
With current energy policies, the IEA predicts that premature deaths from air pollution will rise steeply in the coming years, particularly in Asia, even taking into account improved emission standards for power plants and vehicles which are supposed to improve air quality. This is because of rising and ageing populations, increased fossil fuel use in the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, and more people moving to cities. Premature deaths from fossil-fuel burning will go up from 3 million to 4.5 million, with nearly all of that increase (90%) happening in Asia.
India could see 900,000 premature deaths and a reduction in average life expectancy of 15 months because of air pollution. Indonesia could have 120,000 premature deaths, with 12 months cut from average life expectancy and China a huge 1.5 million premature deaths, and 16 months reduction.
Action on energy efficiency and clean energy, and better emission standards, could avoid many of these deaths. But this means halving the growth in coal consumption from current plans in India and Indonesia, and reducing consumption by 25% below current levels in China. The gap in energy demand must be filled with renewables and energy efficiency.
Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global coal campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia, said:
“Governments in the region have a responsibility to look after the health of their people. Air pollution affects everyone, rich and poor, and policies based on business-as-usual are killing, and will continue to kill, hundreds of thousands of their citizens.
“Air pollution from fossil fuels is a public health emergency both in industrialized and emerging economies. A plan to phase out fossil fuels is needed not only to combat climate change but to stop millions of lives being cut short by air pollution. Those governments still pursuing new coal-fired power plants are writing the death sentences of their people today, and condemning future generations to lives cut short by air pollution.
“As the IEA says, the technologies already exist to prevent this bleak future. It is up to governments to use them.”