WHO released report titled Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants

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Who: Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants
What: Released by WHO
When: 22 October 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) on 22 October 2015 released a report titled Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants.

The report was produced in collaboration of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, a voluntary global partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society.

WHO rated more than 20 affordable measures to mitigate short-lived climate pollutants including vehicle emissions standards, switching from fossil fuels to renewables, reducing food waste and improving household cooking fuels, to see which have the greatest potential to prevent climate change.

Highlights of the report

• The report spotlights the need to reduce short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, ozone, methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change and lead to more than 7 million deaths linked to air pollution each year. Every day, these pollutants threaten the health of people.
• The report recommends that countries, health and environment ministries, and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illness and premature deaths.
• Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon, methane, and ozone, are responsible for a substantial fraction of climate change as well as for a significant proportion of air-pollution related deaths and diseases that kill some 7 million people per year.
• Reducing emissions of SLCPs, which persist in the atmosphere from days to about a decade, can provide health benefits directly from reduced air pollution and related ill-health, indirectly from reduced ozone and black carbon effects on extreme weather and from other types of health benefits.
• This report reviews a range of strategies and policies for action covering sectors such as urban planning, transport, household energy and building design, food production and consumption, power generation, industry, and waste management.

Four key interventions to reduce climate pollutants
• Reducing vehicle emissions by implementing higher emissions and efficiency standards could reduce black carbon and other co-pollutants from fossil fuels, improve air quality and reduce the disease burden attributable to outdoor air pollution
• Policies and investments that prioritize dedicated rapid transit such as buses and trains and foster safe pedestrian and cycle networks can promote multiple benefits including safer active travel and reduced health risks from air and noise pollution, physical inactivity and road traffic injuries
• Providing cleaner and more efficient stove and fuel alternatives to approximately 2.8 billion low-income households worldwide dependent on primarily wood, dung and other solid fuels for heating and cooking could reduce air pollution-related diseases and reduce the health risks.
• Encouraging high and middle-income populations to increase their consumption of nutritious plant-based foods could reduce heart disease and some cancers, and slow methane emissions associated with some animal-sourced foods.

Reducing SLCP emissions can yield near-term benefits to health making measures particularly attractive to policy-makers, as well as slowing the pace of climate change over the next few decades.

The report builds off a 2011 assessment by the UN Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization that estimated that a global deployment of 16 SLCP reduction measures would prevent an average of 2.4 million premature deaths annually by 2030.

However, the new estimates could raise that to 3.5 million lives saved annually by 2030 and between 3 to 5 million lives per year by 2050. These latest projections take into account WHO’s latest data on deaths linked to air pollution as well as some new SLCP measures.