Health co-benefits from air pollution and mitigation costs of the Paris Agreement: a modelling study

Lancet Planet Health. 2018 Mar;2(3):e126-e133. doi: 10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30029-9. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


Background: Although the co-benefits from addressing problems related to both climate change and air pollution have been recognised, there is not much evidence comparing the mitigation costs and economic benefits of air pollution reduction for alternative approaches to meeting greenhouse gas targets. We analysed the extent to which health co-benefits would compensate the mitigation cost of achieving the targets of the Paris climate agreement (2°C and 1·5°C) under different scenarios in which the emissions abatement effort is shared between countries in accordance with three established equity criteria.

Methods: Our study had three stages. First, we used an integrated assessment model, the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), to investigate the emission (greenhouse gases and air pollutants) pathways and abatement costs of a set of scenarios with varying temperature objectives (nationally determined contributions, 2°C, or 1·5°C) and approaches to the distribution of climate change methods (capability, constant emission ratios, and equal per capita). The resulting emissions pathways were transferred to an air quality model (TM5-FASST) to estimate the concentrations of particulate matter and ozone in the atmosphere and the resulting associated premature deaths and morbidity. We then applied a monetary value to these health impacts by use of a term called the value of statistical life and compared these values with those of the mitigation costs calculated from GCAM, both globally and regionally. Our analysis looked forward to 2050 in accordance with the socioeconomic narrative Shared Socioeconomic Pathways 2.

Findings: The health co-benefits substantially outweighed the policy cost of achieving the target for all of the scenarios that we analysed. In some of the mitigation strategies, the median co-benefits were double the median costs at a global level. The ratio of health co-benefit to mitigation cost ranged from 1·4 to 2·45, depending on the scenario. At the regional level, the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions could be compensated with the health co-benefits alone for China and India, whereas the proportion the co-benefits covered varied but could be substantial in the European Union (7-84%) and USA (10-41%), respectively. Finally, we found that the extra effort of trying to pursue the 1·5°C target instead of the 2°C target would generate a substantial net benefit in India (US$3·28-8·4 trillion) and China ($0·27-2·31 trillion), although this positive result was not seen in the other regions.

Interpretation: Substantial health gains can be achieved from taking action to prevent climate change, independent of any future reductions in damages due to climate change. Some countries, such as China and India, could justify stringent mitigation efforts just by including health co-benefits in the analysis. Our results also suggest that the statement in the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1·5°C could make economic sense in some scenarios and countries if health co-benefits are taken into account.

Funding: European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution / economics*
  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Climate Change*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Policy / economics*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Paris
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone