Tackling climate change will improve Europe’s air quality, cut premature deaths and could save €10 billion (US$12.9 billion) annually in air pollution control costs by 2030, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by burning smaller amounts of fossil fuels will result in less air pollution, thereby significantly cutting the cost of tackling air pollution.
Not only will tougher climate change policies designed to limit a global average temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030 help clean up Europe’s air quality, but will also reduce the annual number of premature deaths caused by air pollution.
Existing European air pollution abatement policies should lead to cleaner air in 2030 compared to 2000. However, with existing measures only, air quality is even projected to begin to worsen after 2020. In this scenario—the baseline scenario—311,000 premature deaths are projected each year in 2030, due to pollution with ground-level ozone and fine particles (PM2.5).
In the climate action scenario, the number of premature deaths from pollution by ozone and fine particles is projected to drop by more than 20,000 to 288,000 by 2030. Moreover, the costs of implementing existing air pollution measures is projected to fall by €10 billion (US$12.9 billion) per year. The avoided health costs could be valued at between €16-46 (US$20.6-59.1 billion) per year.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions leads to reductions of emissions of criteria air pollutants from fossil fuel combustion. Reductions are most notable for oxides of nitrogen (10 %), sulphur dioxide (17 %), and particles (8–10%) by 2030, as compared to the baseline.
Cost-savings relative to existing air pollution abatement measures are highest in the EU-15. Relative abatement cost savings for oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and particles are estimated to be 20%, 12% and 14% by 2020, and more than 35%, 25% and 25% respectively by 2030.
However, it is clear that significantly greater efforts will still be necessary in the form of further targeted air pollution abatement measures in order to move closer to the EU long-term objectives.
Even if the maximum feasible land--based reduction measures in relevant sectors for abatement of air pollution were combined with climate policies—the maximum feasible reduction scenario—there will still be 200,000 annual premature deaths by 2030 from ozone and fine particles. Reductions in emissions from non land-based sources, especially shipping, are necessary if the health impacts are to be brought down further.