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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Health in the green economy

Publication Year: 2011 Publisher: World Health Organization


The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a report on health co-benefits of climate change mitigation in the housing sector, the first of a new series of reports on health in the green economy.

The series undertakes a systematic analysis of climate change mitigation and green growth strategies in five economic sectors: housing, transport, health care facilities, household energy in developing countries and agriculture.

The first full report, on housing, evaluates potential health impacts of mitigation options for the residential building sector, focusing on strategies reviewed in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The WHO report finds that many forms of asthma and allergies, as well as heart disease and strokes related to increasingly intense heat waves and cold spells, could be addressed by climate-friendlier housing measures. On the other hand, measures such as more weather-tight housing can introduce new health risks, unless adequate fresh air ventilation is assured. The report also notes that more attention should be paid to the housing risks of rapidly growing developing cities, and how more climate-friendly housing and urban design could improve the health of the poor, as well as mitigate climate change.

The report identifies a number of win-win strategies for health and climate change mitigation, including improved and energy-efficient heating and cooking facilities to reduce indoor pollution. The report also finds that health equity could be improved in low-income areas through investments in insulated roofs, low-energy lighting, water heating air conditioning and other cost-effective mitigation strategies. Investment in such measures should be supported though stronger building codes and improved international and national finance mechanisms.