Health benefits of climate action far outweigh the costs, say WHO

Health benefits of climate action far outweigh the costs, say WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a special report at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) highlighting that acting on climate change is critical for improving human health, and warning of the health risks associated with climate change.

The report states that around one million lives could be saved each year world wide by 2050 through reductions in air pollution alone. Similarly, the health gains from climate action are predicted to be double the cost of mitigation polices.

The benefit to cost ratio are expected to be even higher in countries such as China and India.

Air pollution exposure causes 7 million deaths worldwide each year, costing an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses. In the 15 countries that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) the health consequences are estimated to cost over 4% of GDP. Comparatively, actions to meet the Paris Agreement would cost 1% of GDP.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO noted:

“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.”

Earlier this year WHO reported that 90% of deaths due to air pollution occur in poor countries.

The report offers guidance for governments on how to address climate change and create health benefits for their citizens.

Although countries around the world are taking action on climate change it is not enough, warns the report. This is particularly true for small island developing states and the least developed countries.

Currently only 0.5% of multilateral climate funds allocated for climate change adaptation have been given to health projects.

Dr Joy St John, Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health, WHO commented:

“We now have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to protect health from climate change – from more resilient and sustainable healthcare facilities, to improved warning systems for extreme weather and infectious disease outbreaks. But the lack of investment is leaving the most vulnerable behind”


The 11th Annual AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington D.C.,USA in September 2019.

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Image credit: Reuters

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