The ongoing negotiations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases present an important opportunity to improve population health. Many mitigation policies and technologies in Europe and beyond can have substantial near-term health benefits. Such win-win policies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide other social or environmental benefits. For example, restricting the circulation of private motor vehicles in urban areas would decrease the burden of mortality and morbidity from road traffic accidents and reduce both local and global pollution. A significant shift in road transport towards more environmentally sound modes of transport, such as public transport, walking and cycling, would improve air quality and population health.
The secondary benefit of the reduction in air pollutant concentrations can be substantial, especially for the effects of particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The Working Group on Public Health and Fossil-Fuel Combustion (173) estimates the global impact of reduced exposure to particulate matter smaller than 10 ^m (PM10) as 700 000 fewer premature deaths per year by 2020 under a mitigation scenario. This indicates the likely magnitude of the health benefits of a mitigation policy.
Cities in China and India have the worst air quality in the world (174,175). Reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in these countries will have a greater health benefit per unit of reduction than in the industrialized countries that have strict controls. Thus, governments can directly improve health in poorer countries by supporting the use or introduction of climate-friendly technologies. The specific mechanism for this under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the clean development mechanism.
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