OECD Finds Air Pollution Costs Member States US$1.7 Trillion Annually

OECD_NEW21 May 2014: Deaths and health impacts from air pollution cost advanced economies, together with China and India, US$3.5 trillion annually, according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, 'The Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport.'

Air pollution and its impacts on human health cost society an estimated US$1.7 trillion per year in the 34 OECD member states, according to the report. Approximately half of this cost is attributable to road transport. The findings suggest that 20 countries achieved progress from 2005-2010, helping to decrease total deaths from outdoor air pollution in the OECD by approximately 4%. Progress remained elusive for the other 14 member states.

China and India have experienced an increase in premature deaths from air pollution from 2005 to 2010, with increases of 5% and 12%, respectively. The report states that the health impacts of air pollution cost China US$1.4 trillion in 2010; in India the figure was US$0.5 trillion.

OECD presented the report at the International Transport Forum's 2014 Summit, which took place in Leipzig, Germany. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría highlighted the magnitude of the costs of air pollution, noting that the price paid to drive does not reflect its true costs on society. He urged governments to take collective action to tackle this issue.

Gurría also highlighted incentive schemes in many countries that tax gasoline vehicles at a higher rate than diesel, which has contributed to an increase in diesel vehicles entering the market. The report underscores that such schemes are not justifiable for environmental reasons. Gurría called the report a "wake-up call" for decision makers to start addressing these problems.

Actions recommended in the report include, inter alia: tightening vehicle regulatory regimes; investing in mitigation, especially in the transport sector; continuing research on air pollution, especially pollution from road transport; focusing mitigation programmes on the most vulnerable; and removing incentives for diesel vehicles. [OECD Press Release] [Publication: The Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport] [Gurría Remarks] [OECD Publication Webpage]