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The Telegraph/UK

Pollution 'Could Kill as Many as Climate Change' Warns Met Office

Pollution threatens to kill as many people as climate change in the coming years, Met Office experts will warn at an international conference next week.

Louise Gray

A resident walks across a street on a smoggy day in Shenyang, China (Reuters)

Representatives from more than 192 countries have gathered at a UN climate change conference in Poznan, Poland, to find a way to stop global warming.

But a delegation from the Met Office said it is just as important for the world to stop pollution, which is set to kill 800 more people every year by 2020 in the UK alone.

Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said new scientific evidence shows pollution is a bigger problem in terms of human health than previously thought.

She says that it can exacerbate the effects of climate change with deadly consequences.

This is because increased pollution not only heats the planet through the greenhouse effect but stops plants from absorbing carbon, which in turn increases pollution again.

She pointed out that polluting gases are already killing 1,500 people in the UK every year and that is expected to increase to around 2,391 deaths a year by 2020.

By the 2090s close to one-fifth of the world's population will be exposed to pollution well above the World Health Organization recommended safe-health level. This is expected to cause deaths from respiratory problems on top of the destruction caused by climate change.

Dr Pope will be lobbying the conference to try to reduce pollution as well as climate change at the conference.

She said: "It is not just a question of climate change and rainfall change and the impact of that. A lot more people suffer from air quality problems than suffer from heat. It is an additional problem that people have not really taken into consideration that now needs to be looked at as part of climate change negotiations."

The UN conference is expected to draw up the format of a new Kyoto Protocol to be decided at Copenhagen next year. It will conclude at the end of next week.

The most contentious issue is whether the US will sign up to tough targets on cutting greenhouse gas and whether developing countries like India and China will agree to slow carbon emissions.

The conference is also expected to decide on how to pay poorer countries to halt deforestation and whether there should be an adaptation fund made available to developing countries suffering the worst effects of climate change.

Also next week the Council of Ministers are due to make a decision on the EU's energy package.

The target is to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 as well as increasing the amount of power from renewables to 20 per cent in the same period.

Countries like Italy and Poland, with heavy industries, continue to stall over making a commitment and the decision is expected to go to the 11th hour, casting doubt over the ability of the wider international community to make any decisions at the UN conference.

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