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Air pollution impacts from climate mitigation
Description: Conventional wisdom says that climate-change policies produce ancillary health benefits. Not so fast, say two researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.
Date: 05 December 2006
Author:
Source: Environmental Science and Technology Online
Conventional wisdom says that climate-change policies produce ancillary health benefits. Not so fast, say two researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. In research published today on ES&T’s Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es060517w), the authors suggest that growth in diesel vehicle sales, spurred partly by a CO2 tax on vehicles in the U.K., increases ambient levels of particulate matter (PM) to such a degree that 90 more people could die annually from pollution-related illness.

The U.K. introduced an excise duty on new passenger cars in March 2001 and a CO2 tax in April 2002. The levies have had a dramatic effect on the sale of diesel cars, tripling their share of new sales from 14% to more than 50%: emissions of CO2 from new vehicles registered in the country between 2000 and 2005 have fallen from a fleet average of 181 to 169 grams of CO2/km, the authors write.

Meanwhile, U.S. auto emission regulations are so restrictive that few diesel cars can meet them. New EU-wide regulations are unfolding that aim to lower emissions of PM and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel vehicles and carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HCs) from petrol cars. These EU standards can help even the playing field for the switch to diesel, says coauthor Hadi Dowlatabadi, Canada Research Chair and professor of applied mathematics and global change at UBC. But the imposition of these EU-wide standards didn’t happen soon enough to prevent additional negative health effects, he adds.

Dowlatabadi and Eric Mazzi, a graduate student at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at UBC, estimated that by 2020, new diesel vehicles on U.K. roads would increase PM and NOx emissions by 12 and 93 kilotonnes (kt), respectively. HCs and CO emissions would decrease by 73 and 204 kt, respectively, they calculated, and CO2 emissions would drop by as much as 7 megatonnes (Mt).

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