Cancelling new coal plants in SE Asia, Korea, Japan would save 50,000 lives a year
Hong Kong, 13 January 2017 – Approximately50,000 lives a year could saved by 2030 if no new coal-fired power plants arebuilt in Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, according to agroundbreaking peer reviewed study from researchers at Harvard University andGreenpeace International.
Air pollutant emissions from coal-fired powerplants in these regions currently cause an estimated 20,000 excess deaths peryear, increasing to 70,000 by 2030 if coal-fired power plants presently plannedor under construction go ahead. The majority of these mortalities (55,000 by2030) will be in Southeast Asia.
"While air pollution in China and Indiahas received a lot of scientific attention, the impacts of planned coal powerexpansion in the rest of the Southeast and East Asian region have beenunderstudied,” said Shannon Koplitz, lead researcher in the project fromHarvard University.
“Reliance on coal in emerging Southeast Asiancountries will have substantial and long-lasting impacts on air quality andpublic health. We estimate that tens of thousands of premature deaths could beavoided through cleaner energy choices. These significant human health costsshould be considered when making choices about Southeast Asia’s energy future”.
Authors from Harvard University AtmosphericSciences modeling group, Harvard School of Public Health and Greenpeace mappedout current emissions from all coal-fired power plants in the region, and useda sophisticated atmospheric model to assess how much of current air pollutionlevels are due to coal emissions in different locations across Asia.
If proposed coal-fired power plant projectsgo ahead, emissions from coal in Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan will triple by2030 and could exceed total coal emissions in the U.S. and Europe, with thelargest increases in Indonesia and Vietnam. Coal-fired power plants could beresponsible for 70,000 premature deaths in the region every year, rivaling the100,000 deaths from Indonesia’s 2015 smog. Indonesia will suffer the highestnumber of premature deaths, followed by Vietnam, with Myanmar experiencing thefourth highest mortality in 2030.
“Planned coal expansion in Southeast Asia isa particular concern because of these countries’ extremely weak emissionstandards for power plants. All countries in the region allow many timesmore pollution from new coal-fired powerplants than China and India,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Senior Global CoalCampaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
“Countries in Southeast Asia have the chancenow to leapfrog dirty, outdated technology like coal and move to renewableenergy. Vietnam already took the first step by cancelling 17 large coal-firedpower plants, reducing the projected health impacts from the country’s massivecoal expansion by more than one fourth. Governments across the region have thechance to urgently shift their energy policies and save the lives of tens ofthousands of their citizens.”
Southeast Asia is one of the fastestdeveloping regions in the world; electricity demand in 2035 is projected toincrease by 83% from 2011 levels, more than twice the global average. Manycountries in the region are still pursuing new coal-fired power plants, whilelagging behind China and India in scaling up renewable energy.
Among developed countries, only Japan andSouth Korea continue stand out as the only ones to pursue new coal-fired powerplants, in spite of their in contrast with climate commitments and concernsabout public health.
China, the world’s largest emitter, has seenan overall decrease in coal consumption and associated pollutant emissionssince 2013 and this trend will continue, despite recent jump in pollution.While China’s pollution frequently spills over to neighboring countries, Chinacould also start feeling the impacts of growing emissions outside of itsborders.
Some of the reductions in China’s airpollution could be offset by increases in Southeast Asia, as mainland Chinawill see about 9,000 premature deaths in 2030 due to pollution from rising coalemissions from neighbouring countries.