New Research in Ahmedabad, India Demonstrates Local Air Quality, Health Benefits from Climate Action
Offers a Roadmap for Other Indian Cities
NEW DELHI, INDIA – New research, among the first to quantify the city-level benefits of climate action in India, shows that assertive adaptation measures and clean energy deployment in Ahmedabad could reduce air pollution, save energy, and avoid more than 1,400 premature deaths there in 2030—policies that can be replicated in other Indian cities.
This work, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Research: Health, also suggests that cities across India can build on the applied analysis in Ahmedabad as a roadmap to achieve cleaner air, improve public health and protect people from rising temperatures in a warming world—even as population grows, the economy expands, and demand for air conditioning rises.
“This research shows that India’s ambitious renewable energy goals can not only improve air quality but save lives in the process. India’s long-term action to deal with the climate crisis can deliver tangible air quality and health benefits in a matter of years,” said Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health–Gandhinagar and co-investigator on the study.
The multi-partner research also shows that Ahmedabad (population nearly 8.5 million)—which pioneered South Asia’s first heat action plan and has piloted a cool roofs program to help keep people safe from extreme heat—can deliver even more significant health benefits by meeting World Health Organization guidelines, helping to avoid as many as 17,300 premature deaths.
The research project is a collaboration among experts from the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute, and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).
Their work focuses on climate change, energy, air quality and public health applied research in Ahmedabad, one of 132 cities in India with air pollution exceeding current health-based air quality limits.
Findings from their research were presented today in a virtual webinar where expert panelists discussed the study, and the health-related benefits of climate solutions that reduce fossil fuel use and simultaneously improve air quality and bolster human resilience to rising temperatures. They also called for stronger mitigation and adaptation measures in India and other countries facing impacts from climate change.
“Climate change, extreme heat, and air pollution are interconnected and intensifying hazards that are taking a heavy toll, especially in India. Building on India’s strong commitment at COP to expand renewable energy capacity aggressively, we need strong, coordinated action at the city, state, and national level in India to prioritize public health protection in work to achieve the country’s climate goals.” said Ms. Dipa Bagai, India country head at NRDC.
Prior research in India has estimated the toll on human health from outdoor fine particulate matter air pollution at about 980,000 premature deaths in 2019. That year, India launched its National Clean Air Programme to develop a road map for reducing health-harming air pollution nationwide, especially in cities not meeting national ambient air quality standards for air pollution.
The new research is among the first to estimate the dangers from air pollution at a more local level in India, using city-specific climate, population, health, and air pollution exposure data. Conducting an interdisciplinary modeling analysis with local data and expertise, the team estimated the air quality and health benefits of potential climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in 2030.
"This research is built on local data, local knowledge, and local expertise. The health argument for climate action is clear and our study shows the power of actions taken today to reckon with air pollution at its source.” said Dr. Vijay Limaye, NRDC senior scientist and lead author of the research manuscript.
As India strongly shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy, and deploys robust heat adaptation pathways like cool roofs, it can reduce deadly air pollution, keep people cooler and healthier, and cut the carbon dioxide pollution that fuels climate change.
· Energy demand for cooling in Ahmedabad could nearly triple between 2018 and 2030 as the city population is projected to rise from 8.5 million to 9.3 million, and with annual average temperatures projected to rise about 0.8°C from 2018 to 2030.
· Renewable energy capacity to power Gujarat is poised to expand dramatically, consistent with India’s national commitment to provide 50 percent of its energy mix from renewable, non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
· Expansion of Ahmedabad’s cool roofs program from 5 to 20 percent of total residential roof area would increase the area covered by these more reflective roof surfaces and reduce cooling energy demand by 0.21 Terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2030 from 2018.
o That energy savings would more than offset the city’s climate change-driven 2030 increase in cooling demand, relative to 2018 (0.17 TWh).
o The cut in cooling energy demand is equivalent to avoiding 191,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution from a coal-fired power plant, emissions equivalent to burning 81.4 million litres of petrol.
· Air pollution modeling suggests that if the city takes no additional climate actions by 2030, local air quality will further deteriorate. But if Ahmedabad continues to expand its use of renewable energy and cool roofs, it can reduce air pollution from the current burden regardless of population growth.
· The air quality and health benefits of mitigation actions modeled by this study \ yield up to 1,414 fewer annual all-cause premature deaths city-wide in 2030, compared to a Business-As-Usual 2030.
· Health modeling for 2030 suggests that Ahmedabad could achieve even more significant health benefits with even greater ambition to improve air quality:
o Compared to continued fossil fuel reliance in 2030, the city could avoid up to 6,510, 9,047, or 17,369 premature deaths annually by 2030 if National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) targets, National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) limits, or World Health Organization PM2.5 air quality guidelines (WHOAQG) are achieved, respectively.
A fact sheet developed by the team also makes several recommendations:
1. Substituting Renewable Energy for Highly Polluting Fossil Fuels Benefits Health.
Climate change mitigation actions that move India’s energy systems away from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) and towards greater use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind can help to reduce chronic urban air pollution problems.
2. Indian Cities Can Quantify Adaptation Benefits.
Climate change adaptation responses to better prepare people for unavoidable climate impacts can deliver a range of benefits. For example, efforts to reduce health risks from hazards like extreme heat, including low-cost cool roof installations in India, can help to deliver energy savings by reducing demand for energy to cool buildings. That reduces strain on the electricity grid and lowers household energy bills.
3. Decisionmakers in India Should Consider Air Quality and the Health Effects of Climate and Energy Policies.
Using well-established models that estimate the health impacts of air pollution in India, researchers can strengthen the local evidence base in support of health-protective policies.
4. Interdisciplinary Approaches Can Identify Ways to Reduce Climate Threats to Health
Interdisciplinary teams benefit from experience and expertise across different subject matter areas, and can provide comprehensive learning opportunities to team members, local policymakers, and wider communities. Integration of climate, air quality, energy, demographic, and health data and models can enable researchers to shape analyses that better reflect complex systems.
"India has mapped out an ambitious path to expand renewable energy across the country. As the country struggles through another terrible spike in air pollution, this study makes it clear: strong actions during this pivotal decade to address climate change through reduced fossil fuel reliance and expanded adaptation action can deliver major wins for air quality and public health,” said Dr. Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist and lead investigator on the project.
The research paper is here: https://doi.org/10.1088/2752-5309/aca7d8
A blog about the multi-partner research study, findings, and including factsheets in English and Hindi, is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/vijay-limaye/climate-action-delivers-air-quality-health-gains-india
This press release is available in Hindi as well. Please contact Polash Mukerjee, email@example.com and Elizabeth Heyd, firstname.lastname@example.org
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPHG) is India’s first Public Health University. The Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPHG) is working towards building a healthier India. IIPHG is an example of visionary leadership of Honourable Shri Narendra Modi (then Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat), who laid the foundation stone and provided support for establishing the institute in 2008. Government of Gujarat and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) entered an MoU in 2007 to establish IIPHG. Under the MoU, Government of Gujarat allocated land and agreed to share a part of the project cost.
IIPHG aims to strengthen the overall health system in the country through education, training, research, and advocacy/policy initiatives. The institute started its operation in July 2008 from its interim location in Ahmedabad with the commencement of its 1st batch of Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health Management (PGDPHM). In-service medical officers from the states of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh were sponsored by National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to attend this course. IIPHG is recognized as a University under IIPHG Act 2015 of the Government of Gujarat. For more details, visit our Approval and Recognition Section.