Intended for healthcare professionals


Twin problems of climate change and air pollution

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 20 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5620
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Click here for a visual overview of the report's six recommendations, which summarises their impacts on both health and the environment.

  1. Frank J Kelly, professor
  1. NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in the Health Impact of Environmental Hazards, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King’s College London, London SE1 9NH, UK
  1. frank.kelly{at}

New report urges action on both to maximise benefits for health

The UK is unique in having incorporated a target for reducing greenhouse gases into primary legislation—the Climate Change Act of 2008. The ambitious goal to reduce CO2 equivalents by 80% by 2025 compared with 1990, although admirable, has the potential to be a game changer in either a positive or a disastrously negative way. If the right choices are made, achieving this target could result in large improvements in urban air quality—a leading contributor to poor health in the UK. But the wrong choices could lead to further deterioration in air quality, as seen after the increased use of diesel for road transport.1 A further poor choice would be to replace oil and coal as fuels with wood or biomass. Although biomass absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows, its combustion emits large amounts of harmful particles.2

Given that ambient air quality is recognised to be the second largest challenge to public health (smoking still leads the pack),3 it …

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