Examples of integration of economic evidence in environmental health decision-making

  • Key reports, such as the 2001 report of the WHO Commission on  Macroeconomics and Health and the 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, provide convincing economic evidence about the costs and benefits of different policy options. For example, one of the key findings of the Stern review was that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh by far the costs of inaction. In the absence of action, according to the review, climate change could cost the world at least 5% of GDP each year, and more than 20% of Gross Domestic Product. 
  • The health economic assessment tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling is an example of WHO efforts to integrate economic evidence in environmental health decision-making in the transport sector. This online tool estimates the economic savings from reduced deaths associated with an increase of regular walking and/or cycling.  
  • Adaptation measures are underway in various sectors to protect health from the adverse effects of climate change. A WHO/Europe tool estimates the costs of such measures in European Member States and can, for example, help strengthen the case for their implementation. Governments, citizens or advocacy groups can use the tool to make basic estimates of the economic costs of the health effects of climate change, and the costs and benefits of adaptation measures to minimize these effects.
  • A cost–benefit analysis (CBA) carried out by the Clean Air for Europe (CAFÉ) Programme of the European Commission found high potential for benefits through improving air quality in Europe. These findings were part of the evidence considered before approval of the European Union Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (Directive 2008/50/EC).
  • A recent WHO study in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia showed that the health damage costs of climate change strongly outweigh adaptation costs: the annualized costs of heat–health adaptation measures were estimated at €193 000, compared to damage costs of €2.7 million.