Reaching the World Health Organisation (WHO) targets for air quality could boost the UK economy by £1.6bn a year, according to a new study.
According to a new study produced by CBI Economics on behalf of the Clean Air Fund, 3 million working days are lost every single year because of air pollution.
According to the report, improving air pollution targets in line with WHO guidelines could not only prevent 17,000 premature deaths every single year, but it could also boost the economy by reducing premature deaths, sickness absence and lower productivity at work.
This £1.6bn benefit would be on top of savings to NHS and social care budgets from treating fewer patients with health conditions associated with air pollution.
The WHO guidelines for particulate matter (PM2.5) are more than twice as stringent as the current UK legal levels (10 µg/m³ annual mean vs 25 µg/m³ annual mean).
Based on these findings, the Clean Air Fund is urging the government to include a legally binding commitment to meet WHO air pollution standards by 2030 in the Environment Bill, which is due to be debated in parliament this Autumn.
Jane Burston, executive director of the Clean Air Fund, said: ‘We know clean air makes us healthier, but our research shows it can make us all wealthier too.
‘If businesses and government work together to ensure clean air for all, we can protect our health and re-energise the economy at this critical time. Ministers must commit to binding targets to cut air pollution in line with WHO guidelines by 2030.’
Rain Newton-Smith, Chief Economist of the CBI, said: ‘The CBI is delighted to have been able to work on this important piece of research.
‘Not only is there a clear moral responsibility to address air pollution and the impact it has on human health and the environment, but there’s also a striking economic rationale. That is why the CBI has been absolutely clear that a focus on green recovery should be central to our COVID-19 response.’
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