Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image


GLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5 °C – IPCC special report – Summary for Policymakers

Download (PDF, 10.32MB)

Download (PDF, 6.77MB)

Download (PDF, 8.71MB)

Review of the Draft Fourth National Climate Assessment

Download (PDF, 1.61MB)

Lung disease costs the United Kingdom £11bn every year – report

New figures show lung disease is costing the UK more than £11bn every year, prompting criticism the NHS and governments are not doing enough to tackle one of the country’s biggest killers.

A report by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) says, despite such a large healthcare bill for respiratory conditions, there has been little change in mortality rates over the last 10 years.

The Foundation says 115,000 people die from lung disease every year – one person every five minutes.

More than 12 million people are living with a lung condition in the UK.

It also claims the UK has the highest mortality rates for children with asthma in Europe.

According to the BLF, of the £11.1bn that lung disease costs every year, £9.9bn is spent by the NHS.

A further £1.2bn is lost in the wider economy through things like days off work.

There are calls for the governments and NHS in both England and Scotland to create special taskforces for lung health, and produce new five-year strategies for tackling lung disease.

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, Medical Adviser for the British Lung Foundation, told Sky News air pollution is a major part of the problem.

He said: “In this country, the estimate from the Royal College of Physicians is that there are about 40,000 excess deaths per year caused by air pollution and one of the things in parallel with a respiratory task-force would be a new Clean Air Act.

“We need for the Government to be setting strong binding targets and actions to reduce this air quality problem.”

At the Hospice of St Francis in Hertfordshire, a group of patients with pulmonary fibrosis take part in a fortnightly exercise group.

Their condition will get worse. Some will take years to deteriorate and others will worsen more quickly.

One of the patients, Peter Bryce, runs the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust. He told Sky News groups like his offer vital support.

“Coming here is like joining a family. The people understand the nature of this illness and it’s easy to relate to them and share experiences and support each other. It’s brilliant,” he said.

The Hospice only receives 20% of its funding from the NHS – but it is this sort of support group campaigners want to see more of to help those with lung conditions.

The Department of Health insists it is doing more to tackle lung conditions.

A DoH spokesperson told Sky News: “It is plainly wrong to suggest that tackling lung disease is not a priority – government research funding has risen to over £25 million, our policies have helped reduce smoking rates to a record low and Public Health England has extended its successful ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms.”

Review of the Draft Climate Science Special Report

Download (PDF, 1.24MB)

Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan Report

Download (PDF, 13.68MB)

OECD warns of rising costs of air pollution

Outdoor air pollution could cause up to nine million premature deaths a year by 2060 and cost US$ 3.3 trillion annually as a result of sick days, healthcare expenditure and reduced agricultural output, unless action is taken.

In 2010, outdoor air pollution caused more than three million premature deaths worldwide, with elderly people and children most vulnerable. New projections presented in an OECD report “The Economic Consequences of Outdoor Air Pollution” imply a doubling, or even tripling, of premature deaths from particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) – or one premature death every four or five seconds – by 2060.

The projected increase in concentrations of PM2.5 and ozone will result in significant economic costs to society. The direct market impact of air pollution in terms of lower worker productivity due to illness, higher spending on health care, and lower crop yields, could exceed US$ 3,000 billion annually by 2060, equal to one per cent of GDP. For example, between now and 2060, the number of annual work days lost to air-pollution-related illness is expected to jump from 1.2 to 3.7 billion.

These estimates of economic market impacts do not however reflect the true costs of air pollution because shortening of people’s lives and pain and suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases do not really have a market price. The OECD has therefore also estimated the non-market welfare costs by using economic studies on how people value their health and how much they would be prepared to pay to reduce the health risks, i.e. by introducing policies and measures that would cut air pollutant emissions.

Based on this data, the current (2015) annual global welfare costs of mortality and morbidity from outdoor air pollution are estimated at US$ 3,440 billion, and by 2060 they would amount to between US$ 20,000 and 27,000 billion a year (see table).

Table: Total global welfare costs of air pollution (billions US$)


It should be noted that air pollution damage to ecosystems, biodiversity and our cultural heritage has not been assigned any monetary value and is therefore not included in these economic estimates.

According to the projections, the biggest rises in air pollution mortality rates are expected in India, China, Korea and Central Asian countries, where rising populations and congested cities mean more people are exposed to high levels of pollution. The premature death rates are forecast to be up to three times higher in 2060 than in 2010 in China and up to four times higher in India. Mortality rates are however seen to be stabilising in the United States and falling in much of Western Europe thanks in part to efforts to move to cleaner energy and transport.

Projected GDP losses will be biggest in China, Russia, India, Korea and countries in Eastern Europe and the Caspian region, as health costs and lower labour productivity hit output.

“The number of lives cut short by air pollution is already terrible and the potential rise in the next few decades is terrifying,” said OECD Environment Director Simon Upton. “If this is not motivation enough to act, this report shows there will also be a heavy economic cost to not taking action. We must prevent these projections from becoming reality.”

“It is time for governments to stop fussing about the costs of efforts to limit air pollution and start worrying about the much larger costs of allowing it to continue unchecked. Their citizens’ lives are in their hands,” concluded Simon Upton.

Christer Ågren

The true cost of consumption: The EU’s Land Footprint

EU’s dependence on overseas agricultural land trampling the world

Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on farm land beyond its borders, creating inequalities and threatening both the environment and rural communities, according to a new report released today by Friends of the Earth Europe.

The report reveals that the European Union requires almost 270 million hectares of agricultural land – known as Europe’s ‘Land Footprint’ – to sustain its unsustainable food production and agricultural practices. Almost 40% of this land is outside Europe, an area the size of Italy and France combined [1].

Meadhbh Bolger, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Overconsumption is eating up ever more land, often with disastrous consequences. It is unjust, irresponsible and unsustainable that we continue to use more than our fair share of global land and are shifting more than one-third of the impacts related to land consumption to ecosystems and communities outside of the EU. It is vital that the EU take steps to measure and reduce Europe’s Land Footprint.”


The report also reveals the knock-on impacts of over-reliance on imported animal feed and year-round seasonal goods, and surging demand for vegetable oils, particularly those for non-food uses such as biofuel – with a 34% increase in cropland consumed from outside the EU since 1990. Animal products like meat and dairy account for over 70% of the overall land requirements, and non-food crops like biofuels are linked to negative social impacts on local communities and environmental impacts, including forest loss.

Stanka Becheva, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “To reduce our inequitable footprint we need a radical overhaul in how and where we use land. Industrialised agriculture and global food chains are swallowing up land across the globe, damaging the environment and rural communities. We rapidly need a just transition to a greener way of farming that works for all people and the planet.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to reduce its land footprint, and the associated harmful impacts, ensuring that our use of land is environmentally sustainable and socially just.


This can be achieved by implementing a system for measuring, monitoring and reducing Europe’s land footprint, especially in the areas of bio-economy, circular economy and sustainability policies. Providing incentives that encourage a reduction in the consumption of land intensive products or products that embody relatively high environmental impacts like animal products will also drastically reduce Europe’s land footprint, according to the organisation.


[1] The “Land Footprint” as referred to above, and in the report, refers to agricultural land only (cropland and grassland). Due to current data limitations, EU-wide Land Footprints for non-agricultural products are not possible to calculate.

Download (PDF, 668KB)

Download (PDF, 1.95MB)

‘Biodegradable’ Plastics Are A Big Fat Lie

A new U.N. report says the supposed greener technology is anything but.

A prediction that the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 is likely to intensify the push for sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives.

Biodegradable plastics have long been touted as a “greener” technology, but a new report from the United Nations says these plastics do little, if anything, to actually protect the planet and marine creatures.

“Plastics marked as ‘biodegradable’ do not degrade rapidly in the ocean,” says the report, published Monday.

The 179-page report on plastic marine debris is one of several documents released in time for the United Nations Environment Assembly, which kicked off Monday in Nairobi, Kenya.

Plastics, which can cause serious ecological harm, “are now ubiquitous in the ocean, found in every ocean and on every shoreline from the Arctic through the tropics to the Antarctic,” the report states.

Biodegradable plastics — which have been used for shopping bags, water bottles and food containers — are designed to be less durable and capable of degrading quickly in the environment. But the problem, according to the U.N., is that the conditions required for such plastics to break down exist almost exclusively in industrial composters, not in the ocean.

The description is “well-intentioned but wrong,” Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the U.N. Environment Program, told The Guardian.

“A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of [122 degrees Fahrenheit] and that is not the ocean,” McGlade told the publication. “They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down.”

The U.N. estimates that global plastic production grew 4 percent from 2013 to 2014, exceeding 311 million metric tons. At least 8 million metric tons — the equivalent of one garbage truck every minute — leak into the ocean each year, according to the World Economic Forum.

The U.N. says improving waste collection and management is the “most urgent solution” to reducing plastic litter, but social attitudes are also critical.

“There is a moral argument that we should not allow the ocean to become further polluted with plastic waste, and that marine littering should be considered a ‘common concern of humankind,’” the report says.

In other words, don’t pat yourself on the back the next time you reach for those biodegradable plastic bags. We need to do a lot more than that.

“We need clean air.”

This summer the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) will present a new report “Towards cleaner air”, an assessment of the current scientific knowledge on air pollution based on 35 years of research, monitoring and policy developments.

Some of the report’s key findings have been published in a brief summary for policymakers.

It makes for interesting reading. Despite some significant progress in reducing the emissions of many pollutants, it notes that problems still exist, and that additional action is urgently needed.

Each year, air pollution causes nearly half a million premature deaths in the EU. It is also the cause of allergies and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which result in extra medication and hospitalisations as well as millions of lost working days.

But it is not only people that suffer from air pollution. Excess deposition of acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants damages nature and biodiversity.

Agricultural crops, forest trees and even man-made materials, including monuments and buildings of high cultural value, are all suffering.

Air pollution is transboundary in nature – it can be carried hundreds and even thousands of kilometres by winds in only a few days. Many cities have taken action to improve local air quality, for example by banning cars from city centres or improving public transport.

This is both necessary and good. But even in big cities a significant share of the pollution emanates from sources outside of the city, or even outside of the country.

This is why local and national measures have to be complemented by international action at European level, and – when it comes to dealing with ground-level ozone – even at the northern hemispheric level.

This is also why the EU has a National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive that is designed to make all member states contribute to improvements in air quality in a fair and cost-effective manner.

The current NEC directive dates back to 2001 and sets national emission caps for 2010. It is now subject to revision, with the aim of setting new national emission reduction targets up to the year 2030.

Despite all the negative impacts of air pollution and the fact that most member states are struggling with bad air quality, many national governments – including those of large countries such as the UK, France, Poland and Italy – refuse to accept the fair (and actually quite unambitious) targets of the original proposal.

In particular, they want to lower their national targets for ammonia reductions.

And they want to scrap the methane targets. As agriculture is responsible for 90 per cent of ammonia emissions and half of methane emissions, it is obvious that these positions are being pushed by organisations primarily representing the interests of industrial livestock farming.

Some member states are also seeking greater flexibility, which in this context is a euphemism for a greater right to pollute. Paradoxically, in most cases, the countries that argue for lower national emission reduction targets and greater flexibility are the same ones that are currently the subject of infraction measures by the Commission because they have failed to comply with the EU’s minimum air quality standards. In essence this means that they have failed to protect the health of their citizens.

What we need now is a new NEC directive with targets that ensure a high level of protection for health and the environment, resulting in reduced health bills, improved productivity, longer and healthier lives and a richer natural environment for the benefit of us all. We need clean air.

Christer Ågren

UK air pollution is a public health emergency

According to a cross-party committee of Members of Parliament, air pollution in the UK is a “public health emergency” – the government’s own data shows air pollution causes 40,000–50,000 early deaths a year. The MPs’ heavily critical report says more action is required to tackle the crisis, such as giving dozens of cities that currently suffer illegal levels of air pollution stronger powers to deter polluting vehicles through charges.

The MPs’ report also says farmers must step up action to cut pollution. Ammonia emissions from farms contribute to the formation of tiny particles, one of the main causes of premature deaths and other health impacts.

Alan Andrews, a lawyer at ClientEarth, which defeated the government in the supreme court in 2015, said: “We’ve been telling the government it needs to act on air pollution for five years. Due to our legal case, the government was ordered to act. Now, almost a year on, a cross-party group of MPs has told the government it must get a grip.

It seems there is near-unanimous agreement on the need for urgent action from everyone other than the ministers responsible for dealing with our toxic air.”

Source: The Guardian, 27 April 2016

The report: