Istanbul had been using poor quality and sulphur heavy coal in the wake of the 1970 oil crisis resulting in SO2 levels exceeding 11 times the current World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) guidelines.
In response, in 1992 the Istanbul city government banned the burning of lignite coal and began exploiting Turkey’s role as a pipeline thoroughfare with natural gas flowing from Central Asia, Russia, the Caucuses and Iran. The report states that by 1998 half of Istanbul residential heating requirements came from natural gas – in 2012 97 per cent of urbanised territory was supplied by the distribution network.
By 2012 SO2 levels were below the WHO guidelines and while other pollutants stayed high, the report said this was due to increased traffic in Istanbul and without the aggressive fuel switching measures the situation would have been much worse.
The report says in 2004 Ontario opted to eliminate coal from electricity generation to address health concerns in its most populous city, Toronto. Toronto had repeatedly advocated to convert coal-fired generators to natural gas to reduce the estimated 1,700 premature deaths caused by air pollution in the city.
The state opted to increase the use of natural gas, expand its nuclear power and, more recently, invest in renewables. As a result, emissions generated by electricity production dropped to 4 per cent of the total SO2 produced in Ontario from 30 per cent in ’04, 5 per cent of NO2 from 12 per cent, and 7 per cent of particulate matter of up to 10 micrometres to less than one.