Europe’s dark cloud

Coal pollution and its health impacts travel far beyond borders, and a full coal phase-out in the EU would bring enormous benefits for all citizens across the continent.

Dave Jones

Global Programme Lead

24 July 2016 | < 1 min read

Executive summary

How coal-burning countries make their neighbours sick

EU coal-fired power stations are responsible for deaths, illnesses and billions of euros in health costs.

This report reveals that in 2013, emissions from EU coal-fired power stations were responsible for over  22,900 premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of ill-health from heart disease to bronchitis, and up to EUR 62.3 billion in health costs.

For the first time, the report analyses how the harmful dust caused by coal plants travels across borders and the effect this has. Watch a visualisation of how pollution spreads around Europe here.

The five EU countries whose coal power plants do the most harm abroad are Poland (causing 4,690 premature deaths abroad); Germany (2,490); Romania (1,660); Bulgaria (1,390) and the UK (1,350).

The five EU countries most heavily impacted by coal pollution from neighbouring countries, in addition to that from their own plants are: Germany (3,630 premature deaths altogether), Italy (1,610); France (1,380); Greece (1,050) and Hungary (700).

The report shows that each coal power plant closed provides a major boost for the health not only of those living nearby, but also for those abroad: the UK planned phase-out of coal by 2025 could save up to 2,870 lives every year – more than 1,300 of them in continental Europe. If Germany decides to phase out coal, it could avoid more than 1,860 premature deaths domestically and almost 2,500 abroad every year.

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