The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has released new research at COP28 in Dubai, showing that a cap on emissions from oil and gas would avoid the premature deaths of approximately 4,860 people in Canada over 10 years. They say the economic benefit related to this starts at $45.1-billion. To reach these numbers, the group advocates for Canada to cap emissions 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“The true economic and health benefits are likely far greater, as this analysis does not account for the avoided health care costs associated with premature deaths nor non-fatal health outcomes of air pollution. It also does not consider avoided impacts of the oil and gas industry’s contribution to the climate crisis,” they write. “The oil and gas sector is the fastest-growing and highest-emitting economic sector.” 

They add that additional savings would result from a reduction in the number of missed work days. 

“Oil and gas production is Canada’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 28 per cent of total national emissions in 2021. Absolute emissions from Canada’ oil sands sector grew by five per cent between 2005 and 2020,” they write. “To date, Canada has never met an emissions reduction target, in part due to rising oil and gas emissions.” 

The report, Saving lives, delivering value: economic and health co-benefits of a fair oil and gas emissions cap, adds that Canada is not on track to meet its 2030 targets, partly because of delays in climate legislation development.

In 2016 it was estimated that the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution reached 15,300 throughout that year. This is estimated to have cost the economy more than $120-billion (annually) or six per cent of Canada’s 2016 real gross domestic product. They say a 45 per cent cap on emissions would result in 462 fewer deaths in 2030. If the projected policies remain in place until 2040, they say an emissions cap would avoid the estimated 4,860 premature deaths.

“There is robust scientific evidence of health effects at very low concentrations of these pollutants,” they write. “In other words, any incremental increase in air pollutant concentration is associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes.”