Effective air pollution limits could save more than 20,000 lives every year, yet some national governments are threatening to veto EU measures to tackle toxic pollution.
A European petition launched today calls on governments to protect citizens’ health and environment by adopting a European environmental standards document called the ‘revised LCP BREF’. The petition also demands that governments protect their citizens’ health by imposing strict limits on toxic pollution from coal.
A recent report  has shown how new pollution limits could help reduce the annual number of premature deaths caused by burning coal from 22,900 to 2,600 deaths.
The new standards are the result of years of negotiations between government, industry and NGO representatives. Their adoption was expected to be a formality but pressure from industry has led various Member States to threaten to veto the new rules at the final hurdle. 
Major European environmental groups the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and WWF have teamed up with campaigning organisation WeMove.EU to launch the petition. The petition is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Polish, it will be delivered to ministers ahead of a crucial vote by national governments at an EU Committee meeting on April 28.
 A leaked letter revealed that a group of five countries wrote to Commissioner Vella in September last year demanding that the revised LCP BREF be further delayed. Ministers from the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland and Greece wrote that there was a need to avoid a “disproportionate financial cost or technical burden on industry”. Yet updating the standards is already more than two years behind schedule and the delay in implementing them has already led to more than 54,000 additional deaths and almost €150 billion in associated health costs – a burden on taxpayers all over Europe. In fact, the public benefits will be significantly higher because the standards will also apply to more than 2,000 other non-coal Large Combustion Plants in the EU and will also set stricter discharge limits for water pollutants.
Christian Schaible, Policy Manager (EEB) and member of the group that provided technical advice on the new standards
“The tried-and-tested techniques described in the document have been demonstrated as technically and economically viable in plants across Europe for many years. In terms of pollution reduction, this is much more like ‘using the wheel’ than trying to reinvent it. Given the serious cost of inaction on this issue, it is scandalous that certain governments may attempt to block these evidence-based standards that are designed to protect the health of their citizens and the environment.”
Julia Gogolewska, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
“The health damage resulting from coal fumes today is neither necessary nor inevitable because the means to reduce this pollution already exist. The new regulation will finally require polluters to bear some of the costs that are currently forced on society in the form of illness, health services and lifetime lost.”
Joanna Flisowska, Coal Policy Coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN Europe)
“The health of citizens cannot wait to see the enforcement of stricter air pollution standards on burning coal. EU Governments need to take responsibility and set new pollution limits to protect their citizens and environment. This is an imperative first step while the ultimate goal should be to phase out coal and switch to clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
Darek Urbaniak, Senior Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office
“The EU does not need to reinvent the wheel. Legislation that can help improve the health of EU citizens affected by coal power is ready and waiting. It is now up to EU leaders to demonstrate political courage and take responsibility for adopting and implementing it swiftly.”