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IEA: Biomass fuels linked to 3.5 million deaths annually

The global death rate from air pollution will skyrocket in the next few decades lest the energy buckles down and significantly reduces its emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

In the Energy and Air Pollution special report under the World Energy Outlook, IEA says an estimated 6.5 million death are caused by air pollution annually.

Of these deaths, 3.5 million are connected with energy poverty and the use biomass and kerosene for cooking and lighting that affects 2.7 billion people worldwide.

Another three million deaths are linked to outdoor air pollution caused by traffic and industry, mostly in cities.

The agency report states that the majority of air polluting emissions come from energy production and use due to “unregulated, poorly regulated or inefficient” fuel combustion.

Coal is responsible for around 60% of global combustion-related sulphur-dioxide emissions, while fuels used for transport, such as diesel, generate more than half the nitrogen oxides emitted globally.

Currently only 8% of global energy production is combustion-free and more than half of the rest has no effective technology in place to control emissions.

The report suggests that if the energy industry invests an additional 7% to reduce its emissions output, more than three million lives could be saved by 2040.

“Clean air is a basic human right that most of the world’s population lacks. No country – rich or poor – can claim that the task of tackling air pollution is complete,” Fatih Birol, executive director at IEA, told the Business Reporter.

“But governments are far from powerless to act and need to act now. Proven energy policies and technologies can deliver major cuts in air pollution around the world and bring health benefits, provide broader access to energy and improve sustainability,” Birol said.

Clean Air Scenario

The IEA proposes a cost-effective strategy called the Clean Air Scenario, based on existing technologies and proven policies, to cut pollutant emissions by more than half.

The agency calls for governments to set “ambitious” long-term air quality goals, putting in place a package of clean air policies for the energy sector to achieve these goals, and ensuring effective monitoring, enforcement, evaluation, and communication is carried out.

The measures proposed in the Clean Air Scenario are tailored to different national and regional circumstances, and include effective action to achieve full, universal access to cleaner cooking fuels and to electricity, the report reads.

“We need to revise our approach to energy development so that communities are not forced to sacrifice clean air in return for economic growth,” said Birol. “Implementing the IEA strategy in the Clean Air Scenario can push energy-related pollution levels into a steep decline in all countries.

“It can also deliver universal access to modern energy, a rapid peak and decline in global greenhouse gas emissions and lower fossil fuel import bills in many countries.”