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Balkans: 19,000 died due to pollution from coal power plants

Neighboring countries affected, Brussels should help phaseout

07 September, 19:07
(ANSA) - BELGRADE, SEP 7 - Around 19,000 people are estimated to have died between 2018 and 2020 due to pollution produced by coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans, a new report by CEE Bankwatch Network and by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said today. Nearly 12,000 of the deaths were due to breaches of legally binding pollution limits and by a EU directive that even countries out of the Union such as the Western Balkans ones should respect, the two organizations noted. Out of 19,000 deaths, more than 50 per cent (10,800) were in EU countries. Another 30 per cent (6,500) were recorded in the Western Balkans and the rest in neighboring countries, the study said. In 2020 only, the country suffering the most from the emissions exceedances from the power plants in the Balkans was Italy, with 605 deaths, followed by Serbia (600).Air pollution from coal plants in Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montenegro affects people in those countries but also those in neighboring EU states, the report reads.

"This report lays bare the human toll from the continued breaches of coal-based electricity in the Western Balkans.

Governments of the region must immediately begin a rapid and just transition to sustainable energy systems, with EU support," said Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Advisor at CEE Bankwatch Network.

"Those Western Balkan Governments which have not yet done so, must set a date for an urgent coal phaseout", said Davor Pehchevski, Balkan Air Pollution Campaign Coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network. "The EU must also help countries in the Western Balkans to move beyond coal by taxing fossil-fuel based electricity imports," said Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

"Western Balkan governments cannot dream of EU membership while ignoring pollution control rules. To avoid this kind of flagrant non-compliance, enforcement of the Energy Community Treaty must be made a priority. The European Commission and EU governments must introduce effective penalties", concluded Ioana Ciuta, Energy Coordinator for the Western Balkans at CEE Bankwatch Network. (ANSA).

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