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Air pollution and economic development

In 2015, WHO and OECD estimated that the economic cost of premature death and disability from air pollution in Europe is close to USD 1.6 trillion. Air pollution takes its toll on the economy in several ways: it costs human lives, it reduces people’s ability to work, it affects vital products like food, it damages cultural and historical monuments, it reduces the ability of ecosystems to perform functions societies need and it costs money in remediation or restoration. 

New technologies that contribute to emissions’ reductions are constantly being developed. Setting emission limit values for air pollutants, as done under the different Protocols of the Convention, have proven to be an effective tool in stimulating investment in clean technologies. Benefits of improved technology to reduce air pollution have been quantified in many cases. Economic models show that with the introduction of additional measures some sectors will lose jobs (e.g. the fossil fuel sector); but that other sectors will gain jobs (e.g. the building and equipment sectors). In the long run environmental policy will favour the economy as it stimulates more efficient use of resources, and the health benefits would increase GDP by up to 10%. A larger market for clean technologies will reduce the costs of producing the required equipment and thus the abatement measures. Countries that move first expand their possibilities for a growing clean tech industry. 

Reducing emissions is a wise long term investment that contributes to several development goals and ultimately will yield substantial benefits.

What we do

The Convention sets emission limit values for air pollutants and these have proven to be an effective tool in stimulating investment in clean technologies, including in the energy sector, and will thus also promote sustainable industrialization. Concretely, the Task Force on Techno-Economic Issues under the Convention develops a techno-economic database of information on control technologies for air pollution abatement and their costs. The information may be used both in the formulation of draft revisions of technical annexes to existing Protocols to the Convention, as well as for input data to integrated assessment modelling. The information assists countries in identifying technologies, including for industry and in the energy sector that helps reduce air pollution. The Convention thus helps countries in achieving targets under Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy and Sustainable Development Goal 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure.

The International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Materials, including Historic and Cultural Monuments performs quantitative evaluations of the effect of major pollutants on the atmospheric corrosion of important materials and assesses the trends and costs of corrosion and pollution. The information will assist countries in protecting their cultural heritage, which is one target under Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities.