Cleaner air could boost Manchester economy by £ 28million, 80,000 working days lost

Greater Manchester’s economy could benefit from £ 28million a year by reducing premature deaths, sickness absence and declining workplace productivity if the UK adheres to World Health Organization guidelines (WHO) on air pollution, which are stricter than the current UK legal limits.

Reducing air pollution to WHO levels could prevent 17,000 premature deaths of working-age people each year, who die on average nearly 12 years earlier than expected.

For companies in Greater Manchester, a loss of 80,000 working days could be avoided each year by following WHO guidelines, with workers currently falling ill or having to take time off to care for sick children due to illness. air pollution.

The report is considered the first analysis of the economic benefits of reducing levels of pollution such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) to what are considered “safe levels”.

WHO guidelines for PM2.5 (a form of microscopic pollution) are more than twice as stringent as UK legal levels (10 µg / m³ annual average versus 25 µg / m³ annual average) . The report finds that lowering air pollution levels to WHO guidelines could reduce premature deaths and make these skills available to the economy. In addition, workers are less likely to be sick due to poor air quality, which would increase their available working hours.

The £ 1.6bn annual benefit to the UK economy would come on top of savings to the NHS and social service budgets by treating fewer patients with health problems associated with pollution. Air pollution can trigger cardiac arrests, strokes, severe asthma attacks and is associated with diseases such as lung cancer and COPD, with thousands of deaths and hospitalizations each year .

The analysis does not include the broader potential benefits to the UK economy from adhering to WHO air quality guidelines, including the prevention of early retirement, benefits to voluntary sectors or impacts on consumer behavior, which means that this analysis is likely to be cautious.

In addition to the health benefits, CBI Economics’ analysis estimates workers in Greater Manchester could increase their incomes by a total of £ 16million annually (£ 900million nationally). For example, an employee who lives and works longer as a result of improved air quality, will receive a salary for the extra time they spend at work.

The Clean Air Fund is urging the government to include a legally binding commitment to meet WHO air pollution standards by 2030 in the environmental bill, which is due to be debated in parliament in the fall. This echoes calls from other activist groups part of the Healthy Air campaign. Currently, the bill mentions “a target” for particulate matter (PM2.5), a particularly deadly form of pollution, but does not specify what that target will be or when it will be reached. Other pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are not mentioned in the environmental bill and the PM2.5 target will not be presented to parliament until October 2022.

Some local authorities have announced the establishment of Clean Air Zones with the aim of improving local air quality. The Clean Air Zones were due to launch in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds in 2020, but have since been postponed to at least 2021, possibly indefinitely, while plans for Greater Manchester have been delayed until 2022.

Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund, said:

“We know that clean air makes us healthier, but our research shows that it can also make us all richer. If business and government work together to ensure clean air for all, we can protect our health and revitalize the economy at this critical time. Ministers must commit to meeting binding targets to reduce air pollution in line with WHO guidelines by 2030. ”

Damian Waters, CBI’s Regional Director for the Northwest, said:

“Not only is there a clear moral responsibility for dealing with the climate emergency, there is also a striking economic rationale. This is why the CBI has been absolutely clear that the focus on green recovery should be at the heart of our response to COVID-19.

“From mass energy efficiency programs to building new sustainable transport infrastructure, the green economy offers incredible opportunities for the UK. Improving air quality should be a key part of this program, with government and local authorities working together to achieve this goal.

“With air pollution hitting the balance sheets of businesses across the country and slashing the incomes of their employees, cleaning our air would help us lead healthier and more productive lives, while creating green jobs for them. ‘economy. “

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