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Ambitious action on climate 'will save money and lives'

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Challenge to environment: Steam billows from the chimney of Laziska Power Station, a thermal power plant, in front of Boleslaw Smialy Coal Mine in Laziska Gorne, near where the COP24 climate change conference is taking place in Katowice, Poland. Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Challenge to environment: Steam billows from the chimney of Laziska Power Station, a thermal power plant, in front of Boleslaw Smialy Coal Mine in Laziska Gorne, near where the COP24 climate change conference is taking place in Katowice, Poland. Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Challenge to environment: Steam billows from the chimney of Laziska Power Station, a thermal power plant, in front of Boleslaw Smialy Coal Mine in Laziska Gorne, near where the COP24 climate change conference is taking place in Katowice, Poland. Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Tackling climate change will save up to one million lives a year by 2050 by reducing air pollution, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

A separate report from S&P Global Ratings says it makes economic sense to tackle global warming, highlighting that the 3C warming expected by 2100 unless countries take more ambitious action will cost 2pc of global economic output.

More frequent extreme weather caused damage to infrastructure, leading to a lower rate of return on investment, the report said, as well as the effects on worker productivity due to heatwaves. The financial impact of climate change might be underestimated, it added.

Meanwhile, a WHO report launched at the UN climate conference in Poland says that more ambitious action will result in better health outcomes across the globe.

It says that exposure to air pollution leads to mass fatalities and costs up to €4.5bn in welfare losses. In the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, health effects are estimated to cost 4pc of GDP.

In Ireland, some 1,200 premature deaths occur each year due to air quality issues, but the figure rises to seven million deaths globally, the WHO says.

It also suggests that restricting warming to no more than 2C will cost around 1pc of global GDP, suggesting it is cheaper to take action than pay for poorer health outcomes.

"The evidence is clear that climate change is already having a serious impact on human lives and health," WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"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 WHO's 'COP24 special report: health and climate change' says while countries are taking action, the scale of support remains "woefully inadequate".

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