Air pollution and health benefits of the UK Climate Change Act: Policy Briefing

This policy briefing by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change summarises the findings of the 2018 Lancet Countdown’s UK case study.

Climate change poses an unacceptable risk to health in the UK and around the world, undermining the environmental and social determinants of health. The case study, The Lancet Countdown on health benefits from the UK Climate Change Act: a modelling study for Great Britain, seeks to present a quantification of the health benefits and air quality improvements resulting from the UK meeting the targets of its 2008 Climate Change Act. The Act requires at least an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The study particularly focuses on the air pollution implications from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

In all scenarios where enhanced climate change mitigation was taken to meet the Climate Change Act’s commitments, air pollution concentrations were reduced. In London, NO2 concentrations could fall by more than 50% by 2050. Significant particulate matter (PM2.5) reductions across the country are also expected by the study. Currently, around 29,000 premature deaths in the UK are associated with exposure to small particulate air pollution caused by wide range of sources, including for example road transport.

The briefing highlights that the Climate Change Act represents one of the most ambitious legislative instruments driving climate change mitigation anywhere in the world. Attaining the targets under the CCA could provide large reductions in air pollution emissions. Therefore, climate change mitigation policies have the potential to make dramatic improvements in public health through their parallel improvements in air quality. The briefing notes that enshrining net-zero decarbonisation into the Act could lead to even greater health benefits. However, in order to maximise the health benefits of the CCA, supporting policies need to be carefully designed to avoid undue increases in harmful air pollution emissions.

Read the policy briefing here.

2018-05-16T12:36:15+00:00