The importance of green and healthy growth has been highlighted by a new study, Breathing Life into the UK Economy, from CBI Economics on behalf of the Clean Air Fund.
It suggests the UK stands to benefit by £1.6 billion annually by tightening legal limits for air pollution to the stricter WHO guidelines. It could reduce sickness absence, improve productivity and prevent 17,000 premature deaths across the UK. On average, these people are dying 11.8 years earlier than expected. Businesses would also not lose out on three million lost working days a year if the UK met WHO guidelines.
The report is thought to be the first analysis of the economic benefits of reducing nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 to ‘safe levels’. Presently, the UK legal levels (25 µg/m³ annual mean) for PM2.5 are over double the WHO guidelines.
By preventing premature deaths and capitalising on making skills available to the economy, in combination with savings to the NHS and social care budgets, the UK could benefit by £1.6 billion a year, and this is likely to be a conservative estimate as the report does not consider the impact on early retirement, benefit to voluntary sectors, or the impact on customer behaviour.