Healthy Air Campaign support fourth carbon budget

A report published by the Committee on Climate Change today draws attention to the broader benefits of action to tackle climate change. Analysis carried out to evaluate the health and environmental impacts associated with the fourth carbon budget measures finds that the monetised benefits almost negate the resource costs associated with implementation.

Air quality is one of the areas where there would be major positive impacts, as well as congestion and physical activity. For example energy saving measures and a shift to renewables and nuclear would reduce fossil fuel emissions from power generation and buildings; smarter choices and HGV logistics would reduce vehicle km and electric vehicles and hydrogen buses would reduce emissions intensity.

There are of course some areas, such as biomass, where there would be a significant negative impact on air quality. This only goes to show that while this review has been an extremely constructive step it can’t logically end here. As has long been advocated by the Environmental Audit Committee (para 28), government departments need to join together and develop optimised solutions for a wide range of impacts.

We have published the following statement to voice our support for an integrated approach to evaluating the benefits of action.

“We strongly support the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations to halve UK emissions by 2027 – measures to cut carbon will also have significant benefits for air quality. Many of the root causes are the same, so efforts to tackle both issues go hand in hand.

The Committee on Climate Change’s review of the impacts of carbon budget measures on human health and the environment makes a strong case for retaining the current level of commitment.  Any attempts to water down these targets will have serious implications for health now and in the future.

The health effects of climate change and air pollution each represent a huge drain on the economy, so finding solutions to both offers real value for money. Tackling climate change while reducing dangerous pollutants which can cause heart disease and lung cancer, who could argue with that?

In the past mistakes have been made, for example encouraging the uptake of diesel vehicles on climate grounds despite the toxic effect on our health. The Committee on Climate Change’s approach could help similar mistakes to be avoided in the future.

The Healthy Air Campaign support more of this kind of analysis in order to prioritise win-win policy solutions. It shows that some ways of cutting carbon, such as burning biomass, can be counterproductive when a wider range of benefits and costs are taken into account, while measures such as reducing traffic have benefits across the board, reducing carbon, air pollution and congestion all at once.”

A summary of the broader impacts on human health and the environment is included on p87 in the full report available here, and the specific supporting report ‘Review of the impacts of carbon budget measures on human health and the environment’ should be available for download soon on the same link.

photo by: 401(K) 2013

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