The U.N.’s body for health, WHO, reported on Wednesday that if the world powers reach a global legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, they will not only save the planet, but millions of people living on it, as 7 million die each year of contamination-related diseases. The organization noted that 56 million people die each year.
“If the agreement is achieved, it will be one of the most important on public health of the century,” the WHO’s public health and environment director, Maria Neira, added.
Neira made her statements ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21 that will be held in Paris later this month, and that will be attended by climate negotiators from over 190 nations.
The agency has warned in several reports that at least 7 million people die every year from air pollution-related diseases, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Illnesses like malaria and cholera are also exacerbated by weather phenomena caused by climate change effects.
Given this reality, WHO says negotiators in Paris can use health as an argument, the main goal of the COP21 meeting is to agree on ways of maintaining global warming below the 2-degree-Celsius threshold, as well as to implement viable solutions worldwide to combat the adverse effects of global climate change.
The agency said that implementing proven interventions to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon and methanes, would be expected to save approximately 2.4 million lives a year and reduce global warming by about 0.5 degree Celsius by 2050.
The COP21 has been called by many as “the most important global conference of the century.” However, environmentalists and pressure groups have said its scope could be reduced due to the security measures that the French government has imposed after last week’s attacks in Paris, in which more than 120 people were killed and several hundreds injured.
Although the conference will be held as planned, several activities like public demonstrations and the mass participation of civil society in the talks have been cancelled.