If policies are implemented with the goal of reaching net zero by 2050, one study indicates that there will be “substantial reductions in mortality” and significant health benefits.
The UK is legally committed to achieving net zero by 2050. Many of the proposed policies will reduce harmful environmental factors such as air pollution and encourage healthy behaviors such as diet and exercise, but this is the first time the researchers have modeled Comprehensive way that net zero affects health.
Implementing net zero policies will result in “substantial reductions in mortality“, according to the study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health .
And the combination of policies will lead to at least 2 million additional years lived in the population of England and Wales by 2050, according to the researchers.
“Our model confirms that there are significant health benefits from implementing net zero emissions policiessaid Dr. James Milner of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the research. “These policies are not only essential to mitigating climate change, but also to making us healthier.”.
Health Benefits of Net Zero by 2050
The study measured health benefits by looking only at reductions in mortality. However, in addition to driving reductions in mortality, evidence suggests that zero net policies can also result in people living in better health.
Retrofitting isolated homes would account for 836,000 of the additional 2 million years lived, provided adequate ventilation measures are provided for the improved homes, the study suggests.
“The central role that isolated home retrofits play in delivering these health benefits is particularly impressive.Milner said.
“Homes in England and Wales are poorly insulated compared to other countries, so measures taken to improve home energy efficiency are particularly beneficial for reducing carbon emissions and improving health.“.
“This winter’s energy and cost of living crises provided a long list of reasons for the UK to adopt an ambitious residential insulation policy; our study adds better health to that list”.
Six zero net policies
The researchers analyzed six net zero policies in four different sectors: electricity supply, transport, housing and food. They used models to estimate how these policies affect health, taking into account how much they reduce air pollution, make diets healthier and increase exercise.
The researchers considered two scenarios: a balanced path in which a 60% reduction in emissions was achieved by 2035, and a widespread compromise path in which behavior changed more rapidly towards diet and transport alternatives.
They measured the health impact of policies by looking at the number of additional years people would live across the population.
After retrofitting insulated homes, the second and third most important policies to benefit health were switching to renewable energy to power homes and reducing consumption of red meat, resulting in 657,000 and 412,000 life years gained, respectively.
Replacing car trips with walking or cycling resulted in 125,000 life years gained, while switching to renewable energy for electricity generation resulted in 46,000 life years gained. With the switch to renewable energy for transportation, 30,000 years of life have been gained.
A balanced lifestyle led to an additional 2 million years lived in the population of England and Wales.
“If we are quicker to adopt greener diets and active ways of moving, the health benefits will be even greater.Milner said.
The researchers noted several limitations in their study. But they also said the results likely underestimate the health benefits of net-zero emissions policies.
This is because they were unable to model all the potential health benefits, explained by, for example, reductions in agricultural air pollution and less nitrogen dioxide pollution from transport.
The researchers also failed to capture the benefits of other countries implementing their net zero emissions policies on the population of England and Wales, which is likely to reduce air pollution in continental Europe, for example.
Writing in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, the researchers concluded: “Achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lead to substantial public health benefits in England and Wales, with the cumulative net benefits being proportionally greater if a faster path is followed with more ambitious changes, especially in the related to physical activity and diet”.