An international report on energy and air pollution released today recognises that fossil fuel energy sources – such as coal fired power stations – contribute significantly to the number of people dying from air pollution and need to be better regulated.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends national governments take strong urgent action to clean up pollution sources.
Although indoor air pollution (from burning fuels indoors for cooking and heating in developing countries) kills slightly more people globally than outdoor pollution, in developed countries such as Australia, pollution from coal fired power and transport are the biggest killers.
Data released earlier this year shows that Australia’s toxic emissions from coal fired power stations are rising.
“Aging and highly polluting power stations such as Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria clearly need to close, according to the IEA’s recommendations,” said Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research at Environmental Justice Australia.
“Hazelwood should be closed as a priority and new national air pollution standards which are aimed at reducing death and disease from air pollution should be imposed on all Australia’s power stations.
“Ultimately, if we continue to use coal to generate electricity we will continue to create toxic pollution which kills Australians.
“There is no technology that can be applied to coal to avoid that. The only way to prevent deaths and disease is to move to renewable energy sources as a priority,” she said.
The IEA notes that without significant new regulation, pollution from energy generation in most countries will continue to rise, resulting in more deaths. They recommend that inefficient power stations be closed, and that stringent pollution limits be imposed on all remaining power stations.
Importantly the IEA states that the simplest way to tackle air pollution is not to produce the pollutants in the first place – by switching to renewables.