Report by World Health Organisation suggests measures to reduce air pollutants affecting both human health and climate change
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the “urgent needâ€? to reduce emissions of black carbon, ozone and methane – air pollutants which adversely impact on human health as well as contributing to climate change.
In a report published yesterday (October 22), the UN agency describes these three pollutants, as well as carbon dioxide, as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) which produce both a strong global warming effect and contribute to the more than seven million estimated global premature deaths linked to air pollution each year.
It comes ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament on proposed updates to the National Emissions Ceilings Directive next week (October 28), at which there is expected to be much debate surrounding whether or not, or indeed how stringently, to limits the likes of ammonia and methane emissions.
The WHO report – ‘Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants’ – suggests a number of measures to cut SLCPs, which it says can have a number of co-benefits in reducing disease and death, contributing to food security, improving diets and increasing physical activity.
WHO has set out four major available and affordable interventions which it believes could be most effective at reducing SLCP emissions:
Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO, commeted: “Every day, these pollutants threaten the health of men, women and children. For the first time, this report recommends actions that countries, health and environment ministries, and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illness and premature deaths, which often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable.â€?
The report builds on a 2011 assessment by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organisation, which estimated that a global roll-out of 16 SLCP reduction measures would prevent an average of 2.4 million premature deaths annually by 2030.
According to WHO, new estimates could also raise that to 3.5 million lives saved each year by 2030, and between three and five million lives per year by 2050.
Helena Molin Valdés, head of the UNEP-hosted CCAC, said: “Quick action to reduce black carbon, methane and other ozone precursors are much needed now. We know that the sooner we start reducing these pollutants the sooner we will relieve the pressures on climate and human health.â€?
Maria Neira, WHO director of the department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, added: “The health benefits that may be obtained from these strategies are far larger than previously understood, and they can be enjoyed immediately and locally. The environment and health sectors can now prioritize interventions to meet both of their goal – preventing climate change and ensuring good health.â€?
The report was produced in collaboration with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a voluntary global partnership of governments, intergovernmental organisations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society.