The European Commission has released a new paper that looks at the costs and benefits of greater climate action. It shows that moving from the current 2020 target of a 20% cut in emissions to a 30% cut is cheaper than expected and that massive fuel savings, huge health benefits and many new jobs are expected.
Apart from saving us money in these times of economic crisis, a stronger target to clean up and modernize the European economy will:
Save an extra € 20 billion of fuel expenses per year between 2016 and 2020, savings which offset the € 18 billion extra investments needed in the energy sector to move beyond the current 20% target.
Help reduce money spent and dependence on fossil fuels we have to import from abroad, boost air quality and save pollution costs of up to € 2.7 billion per year.
Create up to 1.5 million extra jobs by 2020. According to the new EU report, a range of smart policy decisions – for example reducing fossil fuel subsidies and increasing energy efficiency – will boost research in and development of modern technologies made in Europe. This, together with a reduction in labour costs, is good for 1.5 million new jobs by 2020.
The Staff Working Document also provides estimates of the health benefits of moving to a 30% reduction in carbon emissions at between €3.3 billion and €7.9bn annually – both for the EU as a whole and on a country by country basis. Doctors and health and environment groups have welcomed the Commission’s recognition of these public health benefits but say that the estimates are conservative.
A recent independent report published by Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Acting Now for Better Health, A 30% reduction target for EU climate policy, quantified the mortality and morbidity benefits associated with cleaner air as a result of raising the domestic target from 20% to 30% at an additional €10bn-€30bn (3). The report provided figures for the EU as a whole and for 16 EU countries, which are compared with the Commission’s new estimates in the table below.
The Commission’s paper has prompted many health and environment groups to again call on EU governments to act now.
“Governments should seize this good news on health benefits to raise the EU’s climate ambition under the Danish Presidency. The health economic benefits for both the EU and member states are significant, and yet we know they are just the tip of the iceberg, and do not reflect the full public health benefits of moving to 30%, as recent studies have shown”, states Genon Jensen, HEAL Executive Director. Ms Jensen says the health benefits merit the serious attention of health ministers and EU Health Commissioner Dalli. She wants there to be a discussion on this issue at the next Health Council and an EU meeting of chief medical officers as soon as possible. The health benefits will be all the greater for acting sooner. “Our findings showed that if we start today the overall benefits for citizens’ health will be more than twice as big as they would be if we delay action until 2015,” Ms Jensen adds.