Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities
Financial benefits of reducing air pollution can be assessed with a new tool
The Finnish Environment Institute has together with the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Meteorological Institute developed a method for assessing the costs caused by air pollution and the financial benefits of reducing it. The benefits result from the reduction in adverse health effects. The tool can be used to support decision-making concerning air pollution control both at the municipal and at the national level.
Particulate matter that is harmful to human health is emitted from transport, energy production and wood burning by households. There are internationally established methods for calculating the adverse health effects. IHKU, the Air Pollution Damage Cost Model for Finland project, developed an easy-to-use tool for assessing the costs caused by air pollution and the financial benefits resulting from reducing air pollution in Finland. The tool can be used to support strategic decision-making concerning air pollution control both at the municipal and at the national level.
Compared with Central Europe, concentrations of particulate matter in ambient air are relatively low in Finland. However, even low concentrations of particulate matter have adverse effects on health. One of the central conclusions made in the project is that, by limiting emissions, it is possible to reach considerable financial benefits in public health in Finland, as well. The greatest benefits can be achieved when the emissions from transport and wood burning by households are reduced in urban areas.
The majority of the costs caused by the adverse health effects are composed of the costs resulting from the shorter life expectancy. Costs also result from hospital visits and the lower capacity to work.
Final product is a tabular tool
The results of the project are based on a chain of many calculation models. First, the emissions were modelled and, based on them, the concentrations of particulate matter in ambient air. Next, the exposure of the population to particulate matter was modelled and, based on that, the health effects were calculated. In the end, the health effects were converted into damage costs. The examination was conducted on primary particulate matter and the most important gases forming secondary particulate matter (nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and ammonia). The final product of the project is a tabular model describing the health costs that can be avoided by reducing emissions by one tonne. The costs have been estimated separately for transport, small-scale combustion by households and for power plants. Examinations at the national level also take into account the population density and the locations of the emission sources. The calculation methods have been chosen in a way that enables comparisons with examinations carried out elsewhere in the world as well as possible.
The effects of air pollution are not limited to adverse health effects. For example, air pollution reduces the diversity of nature. In the final report, the significance of these adverse effects has been assessed on the basis of a literature review.
The analysis was coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute and it was implemented in co-operation with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the National Institute for Health and Welfare. The study was part of the implementation of the Government plan for analysis, assessment and research activities for 2017. The steering group for the project had representatives from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Finance and from local authorities. Stakeholders were also heard regarding the development of the calculation model.