EEA says industrial air pollution cost Europe up to €169 billion in 2009; some 37% attributed to CO2
|Aggregated damage costs by pollutant. The EEA quantified the damage costs arising from CO2 emissions based on estimated marginal abatement cost. Source: EEA. Click to enlarge.|
Air pollution from the 10,000 largest polluting facilities in Europe cost citizens between €102–169 billion (US$135–224 billion) in 2009, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) which analyzed the costs of harm to health and the environment caused by air pollution. Half of the total damage cost (between €51–85 billion) was caused by just 191 facilities.
The pollutants examined in the report, Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe, are the regional and local air pollutants ammonia (NH3), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), particulate matter (PM10) and sulphur oxides (SOx); the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and nickel; organic micro-pollutants including benzene, dioxins and furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and carbon dioxide (CO2).
There are differences between the selected pollutants in terms of the extent of current knowledge about how to evaluate their impacts. Understanding is most advanced in evaluating the health impacts of the major regional air pollutants, and builds on previous peer-reviewed analysis such as that undertaken to inform the CAFE Programme. This report’s analysis for these pollutants thus extends to quantifying crop and building material damage but does not include ecological impacts.
Impacts of heavy metals and persistent organic compounds on human health are also quantified, primarily in terms of additional cancer incidence. In some cases this requires analysis of exposure through consumption as well as through inhalation. Again, ecological damage is not accounted for and it should be noted that the health impact estimates for these pollutants have been subject to less scientific review and debate than those generated under CAFE.
Finally, a different approach was used to quantify the damage costs arising from CO2 emissions, based on estimated marginal abatement cost. Estimating the magnitude of costs associated with future climate change impacts is very uncertain. This uncertainty is unavoidable, as the extent of damage will be dependent on the future development of society, particularly with respect to population and economic growth, but also how much value is attached to future events. The approach used in this report, based on marginal abatement cost, is based on the existing approach used for public policy appraisal in the United Kingdom.—Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe
|Estimates of the European average damage cost per tonne emitted for selected air pollutants. (Log scale) Source: EEA. Click to enlarge.|
Certain aspects of harm to health and the environment are excluded from the scope of the study, such as the health and safety aspects associated with occupational exposure to air pollutants. For regional air pollutants, the model framework underpinning the assessment should be extended in the future to include aspects such as a valuation of ecological impacts and acid damage to culturally significant buildings and monuments, the report suggests. The recognized benefits of industrial facilities, including manufacturing products, employment and tax revenues, are not addressed in the report.
The report provides a list of the individual facilities that contribute the most harm. The report does not assess whether the emissions from industrial facilities are consistent with the legal permitting conditions for the operation of these plants.
The industrial facilities covered by the analysis include large power plants, refineries, manufacturing combustion and industrial processes, waste and certain agricultural activities.
Emissions from power plants contributed the largest share of the damage costs, estimated at €66–112 billion (US$87–148 billion). Other significant contributions to the overall damage costs came from production processes (€23–28 billion) and manufacturing combustion (€8–21 billion). Sectors excluded from the EEA analysis include transport, households and most agricultural activities—if these were included the cost of pollution would be even higher.
Other key findings of the report include:
Air pollution by the facilities covered by EEA’s analysis cost every European citizen approximately €200–330 (US$265–437) on average in 2009.
Countries such as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, where a high number of large facilities are located, contribute the most to the total damage costs. However, when damage costs are weighted in an attempt to reflect the productivity of national economies, the ordering of countries changes significantly. The emissions from countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic are then relatively more important with regard to the damage costs.
A small number of individual facilities cause the majority of damage costs. Three quarters of the total damage costs were caused by the emissions from just 622 industrial facilities—6% of the total number. The facilities with emissions associated with a high damage cost are in most cases some of the largest facilities in Europe which release the greatest amount of pollutants.
Carbon dioxide emissions contribute the most to the overall damage costs, approximately €63 billion (US$83 billion) in 2009 (37% of the €169-billion figure). Air pollutants, which contribute to acid rain and can cause respiratory problems—sulfur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—were found to cause €38-105 billion (US$50–139 billion) of damage a year.
The damage cost resulting from emitting one kg of organic micro-pollutants (e.g. dioxins and furans) is significantly higher than the damage cost from releasing one kg of CO2. The enormously larger amount of CO2 emitted (around a trillion times greater) means, however, that CO2 emissions contribute the most to total damage costs (followed by regional air pollutants, heavy metals and organic micro-pollutants).
Of the industrial sectors included in the pollutant register, emissions from power generation contribute the largest share of the total damage costs (estimated as at least €66–112 billion). Excluding CO2, the estimated damage costs from this sector are €26–71 billion (US$34–94 billion).
The report uses publicly-available data from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). The analysis builds on existing policy tools and methods, such as the methods developed under the EU’s Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) program. Based on the different methodologies, it calculates a range of estimated damage costs arising from air pollutant releases reported by nearly 10,000 individual facilities to the E‑PRTR.