Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in England and Wales by 2050 will generate an additional 2 million years of life, a study suggests.

The UK is legally committed to reaching 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 that researchers have comprehensively modeled how net zero affects health.

The implementation of net zero policies will result in “substantial reductions in mortality”, according to the study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

And the policy mix will lead to at least 2 million additional lived years in the population of England and Welsh by 2050, the researchers found.

“Our model confirms that there are significant health benefits from implementing net-zero emissions policies,” said Dr. James Milner, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the research. “These policies are not only essential to mitigate climate change, but also make us healthier.”

The study measured health benefits by looking only at reductions in mortality. However, in addition to driving reductions in mortality, evidence suggests that net-zero policies may also result in people living with fewer health conditions.

Retrofitting homes with insulation would account for 836,000 of the additional 2 million years of life, provided ventilation measures are provided for the improved homes, the study suggests.

“The central role that insulated home retrofits play in providing these health benefits is particularly striking,” 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 have provided a long list of reasons for the UK to adopt an ambitious lockdown policy; our study adds better health to that list.”

The researchers looked at six net-zero policies in four different sectors: electricity supply, transportation, 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 commitment path in which behavior changed more rapidly with respect to diet and travel options.

They measured the impact of the policies on health by looking at the number of additional years people would live in the entire population.

After retrofitting homes with insulation, the second and third most important policies to benefit health were switching to renewable energy to power homes and reducing red meat consumption, resulting in 657,000 and 412,000 life years gained, respectively.

Replacing car travel with walking or bicycling 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 transport, 30,000 years of life were gained.

The balanced path led to an additional 2 million years lived in the population of England and Wales. The health benefits were even better on the widespread participation pathway, with a total of almost 2.5 million life years gained by 2050.

“If we move faster in adopting more environmentally friendly diets and active ways of traveling, the health benefits will be even greater,” Milner said.

The researchers noted several limitations of their study. But they also said the results are likely to underestimate the health benefits of net-zero emissions policies.

That’s because they couldn’t model all the potential health benefits, they explained, for example, reductions in agricultural air pollution and less nitrogen dioxide pollution from transportation.

The researchers were also unable to capture the benefits of other countries implementing their net zero emissions policies on the population of England and Wales, which will likely reduce air pollution from continental Europe, for example.

Writing in the Lancet Planetarium Health In the journal, the researchers concluded: “Reaching net greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lead to substantial public health benefits in England and Wales, and cumulative net benefits are correspondingly larger with a path involving more rapid changes. and ambitious, especially physically”. activity and diets.

By sbavh

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