Turkey’s coal investments poison people, air and seas across borders

Europe in transition

The real price we all pay for Turkey’s coal is too high, shows CAN Europe’s new study “The Real Costs of Coal: Muğla”. The research is a case study on one of the country’s oldest coal power infrastructures with numerous lignite mines and three coal-fired power plants in Muğla city. The outcomes of the research demonstrate the urgency with which plans for the expansion of coal mines in the region must be abandoned, and the three plants retired instead of getting life extensions.

The Real Costs of Coal: Muğla shows that in total, the three coal plants of Muğla are responsible for the release of 9.5 million tons of sulphur dioxide, 890,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, 65,000 tons of dust and 28,000 kg of mercury since they became operational in 1983. This pollution has cost too high a health price to pay by causing more than 45,000 premature deaths, hospitalization of around 46,000 people due to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses from air pollution and the loss of 12 million working days, according to the health impact modelling employed by the new study.

The testimonies of the villagers living in Muğla support these findings. Dr. Haluk, a resident of Karacahisar Village said: “In the last decade, the cause of death in our village has changed significantly, it’s mostly cancer. We also see more and more young children, and non-smokers with acute respiratory diseases.”

These findings come just after health experts from around the world got together earlier this week in Geneva for the first WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health where they recognised in particular the need to avoid dirty fuels and technologies in energy production for a world free of air pollution. 

Due to the transboundary nature of pollutants, the costs of Muğla’s coal plants to health are also felt abroad, in Europe and as far as the Near East and North Africa. More than half of the fine dust (PM2.5) and a quarter of the nitrogen oxides (NO2) exposure to people attributed to these power plants affects people outside of Turkey, with the largest transboundary impact taking place in Egypt, followed by Israel, Greece and Palestine.

The three coal power plants have already released 360 million tons of CO2 since coming online and now threaten a further 328 million tons of CO2 if they get life expansions from the Turkish government and operate to full 50-year life cycle as opposed to being retired. Moreover, if the plans for all coal mines to become operational becomes real, 18,450 hectares of forest, more than 9 million tons CO2 equivalent of carbon sinks, equivalent to 17 Hambach forests will be lost due to the destruction of forest land. Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe, used the report findings to underscore: “If the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, then it needs to limit the temperature rise below 1.5°C, as shown by the IPCC’s landmark report. The only way to achieve this, is to urgently and globally phase out coal. As explained in our study, this will also bring a lot of additional benefits for people, ecosystems and climate.”


Contact: Stevan Vujasinovic stevan@caneurope.org and +381 (0)63 390 218

Research findings available online here: http://costsofcoal.caneurope.org/

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.