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Building Back Better Could Prevent 112,000 Premature Deaths, Canadian Doctors Say

Meeting Canada’s climate targets could prevent 112,000 premature deaths between 2030 and 2050 due to air quality improvements alone, but achieving those gains will depend on the investments governments make today, according to new modelling released by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

“In response to the economic crisis associated with COVID-19, the federal government is set to deploy funds in a public mobilization unlike any since the Second World War.,” writes CAPE Executive Director Robin Edger in the introduction to the report. “The investment choices our government makes will determine whether we fall back towards a fossil fuel-intensive economy that puts our health at risk, or move Canada forward on a path to meeting our climate targets, and ridding our economy of greenhouse gas emissions while driving investment in sustainable jobs.”

CAPE says its 25 recommendations point the way for Canada to decarbonize new passenger vehicles by 2030 electricity generation and transit by 2040, and the rest of the vehicle fleet, buildings, and health care by 2050. The report also calls for investments to increase urban green space, improve public access to nature, and “protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural ecosystems”. CAPE’s modelling adds up the health benefits of the resulting air quality improvements.

“Of note, additional health benefits related to improved physical activity levels, mental health benefits, heat illness reduction, and long-term climate-related health impacts, amongst others…are not included in these health estimates,” the report states.

But “in order to realize a lasting recovery and prevent further health crises, investments must co-solve the pandemic-related economic crisis and the problem of runaway greenhouse gas emissions,” CAPE adds. “The best way for us to honour the sacrifices that both the Canadian health care work force and our population at large have made over the course of the pandemic is to build back prioritizing safety and equity, thus ensuring that similar crises are made less likely. Let’s build back better.”