Withdrawing pollution measures

In document New Horizons (Page 162-165)

The Clean Air Act of 1956 passed in response of the Great London Smog is an example of a ban on certain types of smoke fuels in some specific areas and it successfully solved the problem of SO2. The Act imposed bans on various pollutants such as aerosol sprays. However, more recent policies on air quality have been less impactful.

Many experts claim that a ban on cars in busy cities may be the only way to tackle pollution, although this scenario has not been evaluated from an economic perspective. Diesel vehicles are responsible for a large share of pollution and even electric cars, which do not emit NO2, generate particle emissions through tyre, brake disc, and road surface wear.98 As electric cars are on average heavier, they generate more non-exhaust particulates.99 Furthermore, electricity generation is often not a clean process.100 A study comparing electric and gasoline vehicles, and accounting for type of electricity generation as well as the short- and long-term, local and global impactsxxxii, found that 90% of local environmental externalities from driving vehicles are simply displaced elsewhere by driving electric cars, although it may be a temporary solution in heavy polluted cities and arguably a way of mitigating health impacts.101 The authors combine a model of vehicle choice,

econometrics and an integrated assessment model, and illustrate the heterogeneity in the environmental benefits. A city suffering from large

damages from gasoline but provided with a clean energy grid can benefit from a move to electric cars. The authors estimate the average value of a subsidy across the US, based on the economic principle that “subsidy should be equal to the difference in lifetime damages between an electric vehicle and a

gasoline vehicle”101, p. 3701 and conclude that, on average, the most efficient policy would rather be a tax on polluting vehicles. This illustrates that in high- traffic areas electric cars may improve local air quality, but are not a

panacea.102

Lead exposure has been significantly reduced over the last years decades thanks to the bans on leaded fuels, paint and plumbing among others in many countries.93 Nevertheless, lead is still present in the environment, in particular in houses that were built when lead-based paint was still permitted. Gould estimated that “each dollar invested in lead paint hazard control results in a return of $17–$221, or net savings of $181–269 billion” in 2006 prices in the US when accounting for medical expenditures and individual’s revenue loss.103

xxxii The model includes human health, crop and timber yields, degradation of buildings

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Conclusions

In this chapter, we have presented evidence that illustrates the magnitude of the net benefits of the main types of interventions available to mitigate the health impacts of pollution. A systematic direct comparison of interventions is not possible due primarily to the variety of benefits considered and the

heterogeneity of methods adopted in the valuation of health and resource impacts. However, some examples exist of studies using consistent approaches to comparatively assess the impacts of wide ranges of interventions, such as an OECD study undertaken by Hunt.78

Two points emerge clearly from the evidence reviewed. First, studies

assessing a more comprehensive range of impacts of interventions to reduce pollution show larger societal values. Second, there is significant scope for expanding and improving the existing evidence base on the value of many interventions, in order to better support the design and implementation of appropriate policies.

This chapter provides an overview of the impacts and value of existing interventions that have been evaluated, but it does not cover the potential of future policies to reduce pollution. The success of future policies will rely on a combination of public engagement and very strict policies to significantly reduce current and future levels of pollution. Modest interventions such taxing idling cars have to be put in place now, and enforced, but more permanent behavioural changes will be achieved with a better infrastructure. For

example, encouraging greener transport choices will be effective with further infrastructure development and information campaigns, for instance to

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It is legitimate to expect the overall cost of pollution, and thus the overall benefits of interventions, to be significantly larger than those identified in many existing studies. Several facts can support this claim. First, only few studies account for the cost associated with the impact of pollution on morbidity, a major driver of health care and welfare costs, and consider exclusively mortality. Second, most studies focus on individual pollutants and neglect the effects of a simultaneous exposure to multiple pollutants106, as well as the spill-over effects (positive or negative) of interventions to reduce one pollutant on other pollutants.107 Third, disentangling the effects of short- and long-term exposures is difficult in empirical studies. Studies tend to take one or the other perspective, and therefore underestimate overall effects. Fourth, if some people adapt their behaviour based on their awareness of pollution, the societal welfare costs of pollution are likely to be

underestimated.108,109 For example, Moretti and Neidell110 estimated the cost of “avoidance behaviour” to be between 25% and 80% of the total cost of hospitalisations due to ozone in Los Angeles. Finally, technological innovation is rapidly improving energy efficiency and resource use, suggesting that analyses that do not account for innovation prospects may overstate future policy implementation costs.111

When more regulations as well as more stringent regulations seem the obvious and right things to do from a public health perspective, one of the consequence of Brexit will be that most of the environmental legislation will cease to apply when the UK leaves the EEA.112

A lot of attention has been given to air pollution from traffic as it is a major component of ambient air quality, but other sources of emissions such as the manufacturing sector, or electricity generation should not be forgotten.

Furthermore, home, school and office environments are where most of the time is spent and more evaluation of simple measures should be supported in order to prioritise interventions.113

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In document New Horizons (Page 162-165)