New Delhi: Air pollution from burning fossil fuels cost India an estimated USD 150 billion annually, the third highest worldwide, a report said on Wednesday. According to the latest report by environment organisation Greenpeace Southeast Asia with inputs from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), the cost of air pollution borne by India from fossil fuels is 5.4 per cent of the country’s annual GDP.
The assessment incorporates recent research that quantifies the contribution of fossil fuels to global air pollution levels. It uses published global datasets describing surface level concentrations of PM2.5, ozone and NO2 to perform a health impact assessment and subsequent cost calculation for the year 2018.
The global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels is estimated to be around USD 2.9 trillion, or 3.3 per cent of the world’s GDP annually. India is estimated to bear 10.7 lakh crore (USD 150 billion), or 5.4 per cent of India’s GDP annually, the third highest costs from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide, the report said, adding that China with USD 900 billion bears the highest costs followed by the United States with USD 600 billion.
The analysis also suggests that an estimated one million deaths each year and approximately 980,000 estimated pre-term births, equating to an annual economic loss of Rs 10.7 lakh crore is attributed to air pollution from fossil fuel in India.
Another source of economic costs is that approximately 350,000 new cases of child asthma each year are linked to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a by-product of fossil fuel combustion.
As a result, around 12.85 lakh more children in India live with Asthma linked to fossil fuel pollution. Exposure to pollution from fossil fuels also leads to around 49 crore days of work absence due to illness, it said.
Researchers from Greenpeace said air pollution is a threat to human health and world’s economies.
Every year, air pollution from fossil fuels takes millions of lives, increases our risk of stroke, lung cancer and asthma, and costs us trillions of dollars. But this is a problem that we know how to solve, by transitioning to renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel and petrol cars, and building public transport. We need to take into account the real cost of fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet, but also for our health, said Minwoo Son, Clean Air Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
Greenpeace India’s senior campaigner Avinash Chanchal said the country spends around 1.28 per cent of the GDP on health while air pollution from burning fossil fuels costs an estimated 5.4 per cent of India’s GDP.
This year the central government allocated only Rs 69,000 crore for the health sector in the Union Budget. This makes it clear that as a country we must fix our priority and stop burning fossil fuels which are harming our health and economy both, said Mr. Chanchal.
He further said that coal fired power plants in India have repeatedly missed the emission deadline set by the Union Environment Ministry.
Strict action must be taken against non-compliance of thermal power plants. The government must ensure the construction of new coal-fired power plants is halted and existing plants must be shut down in phases. Moving our energy generation sector from fossil fuels to renewables would help to prevent premature deaths and vast savings in health costs. A just energy transition to renewable energy is feasible, and we can’t afford to wait any longer. The government and fossil fuel companies need to take action now, Mr. Chanchal added.