On 26 May, the EU funded research project ENBEL (Enhancing Belmont Research Action to support EU policy making on climate change and health), of which HEAL is a partner, organises an event entitled Novel climate change and health research.
While much of the public and political attention has been on coal power generation and its impacts on climate and health, the health threats from burning fossil gas have not been part of the discussion on future-proof energy production and deserve greater attention.
Much like coal combustion, the burning of fossil gas releases air pollutants and fuels climate change.
Major air pollutants include PM2.5, NO2, and fossil gas burning also leads to the formation of ozone. Of concern is also the release of methane in the process of fossil gas extraction and burning. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 (84 times greater global warming potential than CO2, on a 20 year timescale).
In the first analysis of its kind on the health harm of burning fossil gas HEAL showed that in 2019 alone, burning fossil gas for power (and heat) generation caused over 2,800 premature deaths from air pollution (from PM2.5, NO2 and ozone) in the EU-27 and the UK. The price tag for this reliance on fossil gas is up to 8.7 billion EUR in health costs for that year, with the largest health burden falling onto Italy, Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended to end fossil fuel use in energy generation.
But while under RePower EU, the focus has been to end imports of Russian fossil fuels by 2027, there is no agreement yet to end dependency on all fossil fuels, irrespective of their origin. Instead, unfortunately, in many EU member states, there’s been a drive to access new sources of fossil gas (be it the US, Arabian or African countries), and fossil gas infrastructure continues to be built up.
This is in direct contradiction to the EU’s zero pollution objective: a continued reliance on fossil fuels undermines the EU’s zero pollution commitments, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement.
The continued reliance on fossil gas is highly unhealthy. In order to protect people’s health, we need fossil-free, healthy energy systems across Europe. NGOs, including HEAL, urge for the adoption of a timeline and an ambitious deadline for the phasing out of all fossil fuels, including fossil gas, and the avoidance of false solutions in the process, such as the promotion of wood-burning.
Instead, we have to fast track renewables and energy savings – these will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases and their effects on health and climate, and also help to alleviate energy poverty.
False fix: the hidden health impacts of Europe’s fossil gas dependency
First of its kind analysis by HEAL on the health harm of burning fossil gas shows that in 2019 alone, burning fossil gas for power (and heat) generation caused over 2,800 premature deaths from air pollution (from PM2.5, NO2 and ozone) in the EU-27 and the UK. The price tag for this reliance on fossil gas is up to 8.7 billion EUR in health costs for that year, with the largest health burden falling onto Italy, Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
Keep the EU Taxonomy fossil gas free for better health – vote against the delegated act
Letter to European Parliament.
The Commission must live up to its European Green Deal promise and stop subsidies to fossil fuel companies, experts warn
Open letter sent to the European Commission by environmental and health groups , to express concern that coal closure compensation measures proposed in the new Climate, Energy and Environment State Aid Guidelines (CEEAG) can serve as a lifeline for stranded coal facilities and actually delay closure dates.
World governments make citizens pay billions to destroy their own health
HEAL’s Hidden Price Tag report, showing how fossil fuel subsidies support an industry that causes premature deaths, ill-health and huge health costs worldwide, in stark contrast to the Paris Agreement. Health costs associated with fossil fuels are over six times higher than subsidies: 2,758 billion vs 444 billion USD.