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BELGRADE (Serbia), February 21 (SeeNews) - The non-governmental organisation (NGO) Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has recommended that the Western Balkans countries close all coal-fired power plants as soon as possible to reduce the region's chronic coal pollution.
The countries in the Western Balkans need to fully implement standards agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement and develop ambitious long term, low greenhouse gas emissions development strategies by 2020 to ensure real reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, which will also lead to cuts in air pollutants, HEAL said in a report published earlier this week.
Serbia's coal-fired power plants caused the most premature deaths among countries in Southeastern Europe in 2016, according to the report titled "Chronic coal pollution". Serbia, with 570 premature deaths in 2016, was followed by Romania and Bosnia, with 380 and 334 deaths, respectively.
In 2016, total emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter size 2.5 micrometers or less (PM 2.5) from the 16 outdated coal power plants (8.7 GW) in the Western Balkans were almost as high as from the 250 existing coal plants (156 GW) in the EU, HEAL said.
Serbia's Kostolac B was the most polluting coal-fired power plant in Europe in 2016, with 128,000 tonnes of SO2 issued in 2016, followed by Bosnia's Ugljevik and Serbia's Nikola Tesla A with 127,524 tonnes and 109,000 tonnes, respectively.
The Kosovo B power plant was the top polluter in Europe in terms of particulate matter size 10 micrometers or less (PM10), with 6,324 tonnes, followed by Bosnia's Gacko and Serbia's Kolubara A, according to the report.
The 16 coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans produce huge amounts of air pollution, impacting people in the region, the EU and beyond, the the report reads.
"Every year they cause 3,000 premature deaths, 8,000 cases of bronchitis in children, and other chronic illnesses costing both health systems and economies a total of 6.1-11.5 billion euro. The EU bears the majority of the health costs amounting to 3.1-5.8 billion euro, while the economic burden on the Western Balkan countries is estimated to be 1.9-3.6 billion euro every year."
Therefore, regional cooperation is essential to decarbonisation in the Balkans as it is a low-cost and simple way of achieving the desired security of electricity supply. Countries should strive to improve their cooperation and work towards power market integration, the authors of the report noted.
HEAL is the leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the natural and built environments affect health in the European Union.