Report: Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport

Report: Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport
21 May 2014 80 pages
ISBN: 9789264210448 (PDF) ; 9789264210424 (print)
DOI: 10.1787/9789264210448-en
Excerpt for Overview
Air pollution is costing advanced economies (plus China and India) an estimated USD 3.5 trillion a year in premature deaths and ill health and the costs will rise without government action to limit vehicle emissions, a new OECD report says.

In OECD countries, around half the cost is from road transport, with diesel vehicles producing the most harmful emissions. Traffic exhaust is a growing threat in fast-expanding cities in China and India, as the steady increase in the number of cars and trucks on the road undermines efforts to curb vehicle emissions.

“The price we pay to drive doesn’t reflect the impact of driving on the environment and on people’s health. Tackling air pollution requires collective action,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, presenting the report at the International Transport Forum’s 2014 Summit in Leipzig, Germany (Read the full remarks).

The report calculates the cost to society across the OECD’s 34 members at about USD 1.7 trillion, based on the value people attach to not having their lives cut short by cancer, heart disease or respiratory problems. It puts the cost at nearly USD 1.4 trillion in China and nearly USD 0.5 trillion in India.

More than 3.5 million people die each year from outdoor air pollution. From 2005 to 2010, the death rate rose by 4 percent worldwide, by 5 percent in China and by 12 percent in India.

Main Findings
:: The number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution fell by about 4% in OECD countries between 2005 and 2010. But while 20 of the 34 OECD countries achieved progress, 14 did not.
:: The number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in China rose by about 5%, in India by about 12% over the same period.
:: The cost of the health impact of air pollution in OECD countries (including deaths and illness) was about USD 1.7 trillion in 2010.
:: Available evidence suggests that road transport accounts for about 50% of this cost in the OECD, or close to USD 1 trillion.
:: In China, the cost of the health impact of air pollution was about USD 1.4 trillion in 2010, and about USD 0.5 trillion in India. There is insufficient evidence to estimate the share of road transport but it nonetheless represents a large burden.

Main recommendations
:: Remove any incentives for the purchase of diesel cars over gasoline cars.
:: Maintain and tighten regulatory regimes, in particular, vehicle standards regimes such as those currently in place in the European Union. Make test-cycle emissions more similar to the emissions the vehicles cause under normal use.
:: Invest in more ambitious mitigation programmes, including improved public transport.
:: Continue the research on the economic value of morbidity impacts of air pollution and on the specific evidence linking it to road transport.
:: Mitigate the impact of air pollution on vulnerable groups, such as the young and the old.