Meeting the targets established as part of the 2015 Paris agreement can help save a million lives by 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
A WHO report launched today at COP24 in Katowice says this can be achieved through reductions in air pollution alone. It also puts the health gain at the double the financial cost of funding the mitigation policies.
“The Paris Agreement is potentially the strongest health agreement of this century,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “The evidence is clear that climate change is already having a serious impact on human lives and health. It threatens the basic elements we all need for good health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply and safe shelter – and will undermine decades of progress in global health. We can’t afford to delay action any further.”
The report makes key recommendations to policymakers, pointing to climate action as a solution to reducing the multi-trillion dollar welfare costs associated with illness and deaths through air pollution.
“The true cost of climate change is felt in our hospitals and in our lungs. The health burden of polluting energy sources is now so high, that moving to cleaner and more sustainable choices for energy supply, transport and food systems effectively pays for itself,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “When health is taken into account, climate change mitigation is an opportunity, not a cost.”
WHO is asking countries to follow the recommendations in the report and ‘account for health in all cost-benefit analyses of climate change mitigation’.