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Scrapping new coal plants in Asia would save 50,000 lives

Jan 23. 2017
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Approximately 50,000 lives a year could be saved by 2030 if no new coal-fired power plants are built in Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, according to a groundbreaking peer-reviewed study by researchers at Harvard University and Greenpeace International.

Air-polluting emissions from coal-fired power plants in these regions currently cause an estimated 20,000 premature deaths per year, increasing to 70,000 by 2030 if plants now in the pipeline go ahead. The majority of these deaths (55,000 by 2030) will be in Southeast Asia.

“While air pollution in China and India has received a lot of scientific attention, the impacts of planned coal-power expansion in the rest of Southeast and East Asia have been understudied,” says Shannon Koplitz, lead researcher in the project at Harvard.

“Reliance on coal in emerging Southeast Asian countries will have substantial and long-lasting impacts on air quality and public health. We estimate that tens of thousands of premature deaths could be avoided through cleaner energy choices. These significant health costs should be considered when making choices about Southeast Asia’s energy future.”

If proposed coal-fired plants go ahead, emissions from coal in Southeast Asia, South Korea and Japan will triple by 2030 and could exceed total coal emissions in the US and Europe, with the largest increases in Indonesia and Vietnam. Coal-fired plants could be responsible for 70,000 premature deaths in the region every year, rivalling the 100,000 deaths from Indonesia’s 2015 smog. Indonesia will suffer the highest number of premature deaths, followed by Vietnam, with Myanmar experiencing the fourth-highest mortality in 2030

“Planned coal expansion in Southeast Asia is a particular concern because of these countries’ extremely weak emission standards for power plants,” says Arif Fiyanto of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “All countries in the region allow many times more pollution from new coal-fired power plants than China and India.

“Countries in Southeast Asia have the chance now to leapfrog dirty, outdated technology like coal and move to renewable energy. Vietnam already took the first step by cancelling 17 large coal-fired power plants, reducing the projected health impacts from the country’s massive coal expansion by more than one fourth. Governments across the region have the chance to urgently shift their energy policies and save the lives of tens of thousands of their citizens.”

Greenpeace Southeast Asia

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