The costs of fossil fuels are far greater than we think

The new report “Hidden Price Tags: How Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Benefit Our Health”, recently published by European nonprofit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), tried to make an economic comparison of fossil fuel subsidies and health costs from air pollution. “Most likely, we don’t get to know of this hidden price tag that makes us sick,” states the report.

The report notes that, while G20 governments spent US$444 billion in 2014 on subsidies for burning fossil fuels, the true cost of these subsidies to society is over six times higher. The report estimates that the 2014 health impacts of this fossil fuel usage within G20 countries caused 3.8 million deaths and cost nearly US$2.76 trillion.

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), every year an estimated 6.5 million people around the world are dying prematurely due to lung and heart conditions caused by breathing in polluted air. Most of this air pollution comes from the production and use of fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal.

The report calls on governments not to provide public money for supporting an industry that causes “premature deaths, ill-health and huge health costs worldwide” – and to invest this money in healthcare systems and healthier energy choices instead. In China, the report examines, fossil fuels impose a staggering US$1,790 billion in health costs from air pollution, more than 18 times what the nation hands out to oil, gas and coal producers, helping to fuel a public health crisis that is already causing 1.6 million premature deaths every year. The report authors also calculated that, if Poland were to stop funding the fossil fuel industry, the country could afford to build 34 new hospitals in under-served areas, and pay the salaries of more than 30,000 doctors and 57,000 teachers each year.

“European and global leaders continue to pledge to tackle climate change and decarbonize our economy. However, they still give out billions of Euros and Dollars which lead to global warming and fuel early death and ill-health including heart and lung disease. It is time to seize the opportunity to improve the health of millions of people worldwide by abandoning subsidies to the deadly fossil fuel industry. They should walk the talk and end fossil fuel subsidies now,” says HEAL’s Executive Director, Genon K. Jensen.

In the report, HEAL urges policymakers to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 for developed nations and by 2025 for low-income economies, to cut premature deaths, poor health and climate chaos and promote renewable, clean energy and its multiple health and environmental benefits.

You can read the full report here: http://env-health.org/IMG/pdf/healthandenvironmentalliance_hidden_price_tags_report.pdf

Source: “Hidden Price Tags: How Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Benefit Our Health” report

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