UN Climate Change News, 5 March 2018 – Meeting the objectives of the Paris Climate Change Agreement by investing in low emissions technology would save governments around USD 54 trillion in health care costs by mid-century, leading medical experts say in a new report.
Investing in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be far cheaper than paying the health costs associated with polluted air, and would also result in millions fewer premature deaths, write the authors of a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health.
According to the World Health Organization, 92% of people who live in cities do not breathe safe air, and 6.5 million people die each year due to poor ambient air quality.
The report also outlines basic climate policy options which would have an immediate and positive impact both on the health and economies of the world’s societies.
“Removing fossil fuel subsidies and implementing carbon taxes could, if properly designed, improve health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, redistribute wealth, and stimulate employment,” say the authors of “Health Co-Benefits of Climate Action”.
The burning of fossil fuels in motor vehicles, operations of industrial facilities and using dirty energy for residential heating, cooking, and lighting are the main causes of bad air quality.
“The good news is that ambient air pollution can be controlled and the diseases it causes prevented. Ambient air pollution is not the unavoidable consequence of modern economic growth…Cities and countries will need to switch to non-polluting energy sources, encourage active commuting, enhance their transportation networks, redesign industrial processes to eliminate waste, and move away from the resource-intensive so-called take-make-use-dispose model of economic growth towards a clean, sustainable, circular economic model,” said Dr. Phillip J Landrigan, an American epidemiologist and a leading advocate for children’s health, on the Lancet Commission’s Report on Pollution and Health.
The sources of human activity that pollute the air and damage global health, via the Lancet
The UN is presently stepping up efforts to fight air pollution and climate change at the same time, both via international agreement such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement and via campaigns such as BreatheLife 2030, a collaboration between the UN Environmental Programme and the World Health Organization, which aims to help cities measure and set targets for reducing air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.
And UN Climate Change, together with the Rockefeller Foundation, have embarked on a project to shine a light on solutions to balance the need for both human health and a healthy planet.
Momentum for Change: Planetary Health recognizes and showcases novel solutions to balancing the need for healthy communities with stewardship of natural ecosystems.
“The Paris Agreement explicitly links climate action with a healthier environment – from cleaner air and reduced risks of extreme heatwaves to keeping in check the spread of diseases. Today we need to think differently about the relationship between climate health and human health,” says UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.
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