The health costs of the fossil fuels that G20 countries subsidize are six times higher than the subsidies themselves, according to an analysis released this morning by the Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) that points to nearly US$2.8 trillion per year lost to disease and premature death.
“Every year, air pollution from mostly fossil fuel combustion cuts short the lives of an estimated 6.5 million people worldwide because of respiratory tract infections, strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease,” HEAL states in a release. “The costs to health from the resulting air pollution, climate change, and environmental degradation are not carried by the industry, but paid by society.”
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The report documents 9,466 air pollution deaths in Canada producing US$9.8 billion in health costs, nearly twice the country’s fossil fuel subsidies of $5.4 billion. Other costs to the country, based on a societal cost of carbon measure, total $22.4 billion. The health and human costs are far higher in China and India, with more than 1.6 and 1.4 million premature deaths per year, respectively. The EU recorded 231,554 premature deaths, fossil subsidies listed at $39 to $200 billion, health costs of $229.4 billion, and other societal costs at $149.3 billion.
“European and global leaders continue to pledge to tackle climate change and decarbonize our economy,” said HEAL Executive Director Genon K. Jensen. “However, they still give out billions of Euros and dollars which lead to global warming and fuel early death and ill health.” With the health of millions in the balance, he added, G20 governments “should walk the talk and end fossil fuel subsidies now.”
Chatham House Senior Fellow Robert Yates recommended investing the savings from eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in better health care. “One of the best political strategies to reduce fossil fuel subsidies is to simultaneously launch universal free health services,” he said. “Combining these policies can deliver significant health, economic, and environmental benefits and deliver huge political benefits to leaders who bring free health care to their people.”
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