The European Environment Agency published a report on the cost and toll of air pollution due to industrial facilities to the European Union last November.
The costs are staggering as the 10,000 facilities induced up to 102 and 169 billion euros in 2009 alone.
However, only a small number of these plants are responsible for the vast majority of this pollution. The EEA notes:
Fifty per cent of the total damage cost occurs as a result of emissions from just 191 or 2 % of the approximately 10 000 facilities that reported data for releases to air.
Three quarters of the total damage costs are caused by the emissions of 622 facilities — 6 % of the total number.
This proves that solving the problem of industrial air pollution could be relatively easy.
The energy sector is the most polluting one as it is responsible for 66 to 112 billion euros of damages. Excluding carbon dioxide, the pollution still costs the 27 country members up to 26 to 71 billion euros.
Other sectors like production processes and manufacturing combustion are responsible for much less pollution, and thus much less induced: 23 to 28 billion euros and 8 to 21 billion euros respectively.
Meanwhile, the report notes that carbon dioxide contributes the most to the overall damage costs with approximately 63 billion euros in 2009. But this is not enough:
Air pollutants, which contribute to acid rain and can cause respiratory problems – sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – were found to cause €38-105 billion of damage a year.
The bottom line: the European Union needs to change the way it is producing electricity and to improve its few remaining plants to get much cleaner air.