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External costs of coal

Global estimate

The report estimates the global annual value of external costs related to coal combustion and mining. Three types of factors have been examined: costs for the society attributable to climate change, human health impacts that result from air pollution and fatalities due to major accidents resulting from mining. Selection of countries included in calculations is based on global ranking of CO2 emissions. Over 90% of global emissions have been taken into account in calculations. The rates of damages per tonne of pollutants which have been used in calculations are based on the results of the NEEDS project (from the ExternE series). Combining all damages, we arrive at a total annual damage figure of approximately 357 billion Euro in the year 2007. This estimate is conservative, as not all emissions have been covered and not all possible damages have been valued. The highest damages can be attributed to coal combustion - about 99% of the total value. The largest contribution is due to SO2 emissions, with 38%. The contribution of CO2 is similar - about 37%, NOx contributes 14% and fine particles 11%. The report has been prepared for Greenpeace International. Greenpeace has used its findings in launching a global campaign against excessive use of coal for power production, in order to raise global awareness about damages related to coal in different stages of its production and use.

Authors CE

Harry Croezen

Delft, November 2008


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