Countries of the Western Balkans still largely rely on coal-based sources for their energy needs, which threatens the health of not only their citizens, but also those in the European Union, a report released by environmentalist organisations said on Tuesday.
The report, signed by five different environmentalist groups, identified no less than 16 outdated coal power plants across the Western Balkans which are deemed a threat to public health and an economic liability for the whole of Europe, adding that “people in the EU bear the majority of the health impacts and costs.”
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Sandbag, the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, the CEE Bankwatch Network, and Europe Beyond Coal groups urged the EU to use “all of the tools available to improve health, prolong lives, save health costs and increase productivity both in the EU and in the Western Balkan region.”
In 2016 alone, the 16 plants spewed out the amount of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere equivalent to all of EU’s 250 coal power plants combined.
Just a single one of these plants in the Western Balkans, the Ugljevik coal plant in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, produced more sulphur dioxide than all German coal power plants put together.
In addition, the levels of particulate matter in the air and nitrogen oxides are equally alarming, the report warned.
“Air pollution knows no borders and is still an invisible killer in Europe. A significant amount of pollution from the Western Balkans travels into the EU. Pollution from the Western Balkans adds to the already poor air quality in the EU countries, making it harder, especially for the adjacent EU neighbours, to meet air quality standards. It is high time that EU policy-makers step up efforts to clean up the air and decarbonise the power sector in the Southeastern European region,” Vlatka Matkovic Puljic, Senior Health and Energy Officer at HEAL, and lead author of the report, said.