Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation policies in the transport sector


Theory, common sense and modelling studies suggest that some interventions to mitigate carbon emissions in the transport sector can also have substantial short-term benefits for population health. Policies that encourage active modes of transportation such as cycling may, for example, increase population physical activity and decrease air pollution, thus reducing the burden of conditions such as some cancers, diabetes, heart disease and dementia. In this Perspective we systematically review the evidence from 'real life' transport policies and their impacts on health and CO2 emissions. We identified a few studies that mostly involved personalized travel planning and showed modest increases in active transport such as walking, and reductions in vehicle use and CO2 emissions. Given the poor quality of the studies identified, urgent action is needed to provide more robust evidence for policies.

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Figure 1: Global energy use from the transport sector by mode (2000).
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We thank the experts who responded to our request to identify additional studies for inclusion in the review. We also thank J. Stanley for helpful discussions on the statistical aspects of some of the included studies, R. Chapman for comments on an earlier version of this draft, T. Blakely for discussions about modelling and C. Hooper for assisting with software.

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All authors contributed to the design of the review. C.S. executed the search strategy and undertook the primary screening and secondary screening. S.H. contributed to the primary screening and undertook secondary screening. All authors contributed to data extraction and qualitative assessment process. C.S. drafted the paper. All authors contributed to the critical review of the paper and approved the final version.

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Correspondence to Caroline Shaw.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Shaw, C., Hales, S., Howden-Chapman, P. et al. Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation policies in the transport sector. Nature Clim Change 4, 427–433 (2014).

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