Cutting global air pollution could save a million lives a year by 2050, WHO says

Meeting climate targets set in Paris in 2015 would significantly reduce air pollution, a World Health Organization report released at the climate change summit in Poland says.

'We can't afford to delay action any further,' says report released at Poland climate summit

A statue of a mermaid, the symbol of Warsaw, wears a mask during smog alert in the city in 2017. Local activists put the mask on the statue to raise awareness about the dangerous levels of air pollution in Poland. The country is hosting the COP24 climate summit. (Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press)

The World Health Organization says curbing climate change will have huge benefits for people's health worldwide.

The United Nations agency said Wednesday that meeting the 2015 Paris accord's goals would significantly cut global air pollution, saving a million lives each year by 2050.

In a report released at the COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, WHO said exposure to air pollution causes seven million deaths worldwide every year. 

The countries that signed on to the Paris accord, including Canada, committed to a goal of limiting the average global temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Fossil fuels that produce air pollution, such as coal, gasoline and wood, are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. 

In its report, WHO also said the savings on health expenditure will far outweigh the cost of tackling global warming.

"The evidence is clear that climate change is already having a serious impact on human lives and health," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, in a news release on Wednesday. 

"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."

With files from CBC News


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