The NGO is satisfied with Morocco’s achievements in the environmental sector, but believes authorities should be more “transparent” about the danger of air pollution, based on data.
Rabat – International NGO Greenpeace MENA issued the outcomes of its global report “Toxic Air: The Real Cost of Fossil Fuels” featuring Morocco within a lengthy list of countries that suffer relatively high estimated numbers of deaths annually due to air pollution.
The report stipulates that Morocco is one of the countries with the highest estimated number of related deaths per year, 5,100 in 2018, in the MENA region. Morocco ranks after Egypt, the top on the list for air pollution-related deaths.
The numbers of deaths related to air pollution in Algeria and Tunisia are estimated at 3,000 and 2,100 respectively, the report shows.
Commenting on the results and the economic impact that accompanies the health impact, a campaign manager at Greenpeace MENA, Mohammed Tazrouti, said Morocco suffers serious problems that threaten both health and “pocket of every Moroccan citizen.”
He acknowledged that the country, however, plays an important role in combating the climate crisis through its “ambitious commitments in the renewable energy sector.”
Morocco has positioned itself a leader in the renewable energy sector, receiving positive feedback on its approach internationally.
Some recent praise came from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which said Morocco has been playing an important role in Africa’s energy transition with its Noor Ouarzazate solar complex. It is the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) complex in the world.
As a long term project, Morocco seeks to generate 52% of its energy from renewables by 2030.
Despite leading in renewables, coal poses a serious threat to Morocco
Tazrouti, however, criticized the country for using coal as the “main source of electricity production with a high rate reaching around 50%.”
A 2020 study from the King Abdullah Center for Petroleum Studies and Research found out that the production of coal in Morocco represents a lever in the electricity sector.
Coal dominates the country’s electricity generation capacity with 58% of power production in 2016, according to the study.
Coal is followed by natural gas with 20% and oil with 10% in the 2016 report.
The Greenpeace MENA campaign leader expressed negative remarks on coal, stating that the material is “one of the most polluting fuels.”
Coal produces “toxic pollutants that cause chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer,” Tazrouti said.
A study from West Virginia University Health Sciences Center backs Tazrouti’s argument.
The summary of the study shows that residents of coal-mining communities “complained of impaired health.” The study aligns with wide international consensus that coal is a dangerous source of energy in terms of both environmental and human health.
Tazrouti said coal pollution-related respiratory illnesses make “us more vulnerable to infections by respiratory viruses like COVID-19.”
A recent study conducted by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health backed up this assertion, finding that communities suffering relatively high levels of air pollution in the US witnessed higher death rates from COVID-19 than those with lower levels of air pollution.
Air pollution costs Morocco’s economy
The Greenpeace MENA report said that the average annual cost Morocco suffers due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel emissions is estimated at 0.9% of its GDP, or $1.1 billion (MAD 11 billion) annually.
Tunisia loses $400 million per year, while Algeria loses $840 million annually, representing 0.5% of its GDP.
“Air pollution is not only a health crisis, but also an economic crisis. At a time when the economy of our country is going through a crisis due to coronavirus, we must learn from what happened at this stage, such as the importance of investing in projects that benefit people and the environment.”
Tazrouti said Morocco has made great achievements in terms of renewable energies, and the NGO is convinced that Morocco would do well to draw up an ambitious plan to “phase out dirty coal gradually and instead invest in renewable, clean and healthy energes.”
He said the “best way to solve the problem is to start recognizing it.”
The NGO also asked the government to show more transparency regarding air pollution, providing data accessible for the public.