Climate policy has ‘enormous’ synergies with energy security and air quality

New study shows savings of $100-600 billion a year in air quality control and energy security costs
Tough climate policy can set us on the path to energy sustainability, by cutting air pollution and improving energy security, a new study concludes.

Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria modelled hundreds of different energy policy scenarios. They found that the scenarios with stringent climate policy produced huge benefits for health and energy security, with big cost savings compared to the other scenarios.

Decarbonising the energy system would cut pollution by fine particles and ozone, saving 23 million disability-adjusted life-years worldwide by 2030, compared to a baseline scenario in which all currently planned air quality legislation was enacted. At the same time, energy efficiency improvements and a shift to low-carbon energy (including locally produced renewable energy) would strengthen the energy security of individual countries and regions, by increasing the diversity of the energy mix and reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The cost savings are potentially huge: $100-600 billion annually by 2030 in avoided expenditure on air quality control and energy security, which is 0.1-0.7% of global GDP. This would substantially offset the costs of investing in efficient and low-carbon technologies, estimated as up to 1.5% of global GDP. There would be further benefits from avoided health care costs and avoided climate adaptation costs, which were not included in the analysis.

The paper concludes that “the common practice of focusing on single issues ignores potentially enormous synergies”, highlighting the need for more holistic policy approaches.

Climate policies can help resolve energy security and air pollution challenge, McCollum, David L., Volker Krey, Keywan Riahi, Peter Kolp, Arnulf Grubler, Marek Makowski and Nebojsa Nakicenovic. Climatic Change 119: 479-494. July 2013.