People in all major cities across the Western Balkans are facing an alarming level of air pollution that diminishes their lifetime, largely because this region remains highly dependent on coal for electricity generation, the United Nations said in a new report. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report was prepared in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the air quality management institutions in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The report is based on data collected for a minimum of 274 days a year. “The population in this region is exposed to some of the highest concentrations of air pollution in Europe, up to five times the norms set at the national level and in the EU,” the report said. The report states that the lack of access to modern sources of renewable energy in the region is the main cause of air pollution. Fifteen active coal-fired power plants, of which some are out-dated, release significant amounts of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, dust or small particles into the air in five Western Balkan countries, according to a report. Furthermore, 88 percent of the 7.3 million buildings in the region use decentralized heating systems that use energy inefficiently. The report states that in the 18 cities analysed, air pollution causes a considerable number of premature deaths. “Air pollution in the cities of the Western Balkans causes between 15 percent and 19 percent of the total number of deaths and reduces life expectancy by 1.1 to 1.3 years,” the report says. In the observed Balkan cities, daily restrictions on exposure to particles of soot or other matter, i.e. PM10, are exceeded between 120 and 180 days per year. This is much more than permitted by national and EU standards, which limit such exposure to 35 days.