Climate change

Climate pact or better health?

Print edition : March 30, 2018

Smog-filled New Delhi.

India and China would recover much more than what they would spend on implementing the Paris Climate Agreement between 2020-2050 by way of health savings on account of reduced air pollution-related illnesses and deaths, according to a modelling study appeared in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health on March 1.

As many as 195 countries have currently signed the global climate pact, due to commence in 2020. The pact aims to reduce the impacts of climate change by preventing the global average temperature from increasing to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a view to further limiting this to less than 1.5°C. However, how these targets will be achieved and funded by all countries has not yet been agreed.

But the study carried out by a team led by Anil Markandya, a professor at Basque Centre for Climate Change, Spain, modelled the impacts of doing nothing, continuing current country-level policies, and three different strategies for implementing and funding the Paris Agreement towards the 2°C and the 1.5°C limits.

The cost of undertaking any climate change mitigation policies in China and India would be fully compensated just by the health savings made in most scenarios, and the added costs of pursuing the 1.5°C target instead of the 2°C target could generate substantial benefits ($3.3-8.4 trillion for India and $0.3-2.3 trillion for China respectively), the scientists projected.

Under all three proposed scenarios, the major beneficiaries would be India and China. While India would account for roughly 43 per cent of the health savings in all scenarios, China’s savings would be in the range of nearly 55 per cent. This is because these countries have large populations, many of whom are exposed to higher than acceptable pollution levels, according to a release.

In the study, the authors combined a number of existing models to estimate emission levels, air pollution-related deaths (as a result of respiratory disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory airway infections) and their costs, costs of climate change mitigation, and healthcare co-benefits for the United States, European Union, China, India and the rest of the world.

T.V. Jayan