UN members commit to tackling air pollution

Environment ministers from across the globe – including the UK – have signed a resolution to prevent and reduce air pollution, which it is claimed will see 1.49 billion more people breathe clean air worldwide.

The resolution, which also covered commitments to reduce marine litter and to cut lead poisoning from paint and batteries, was signed on the final day of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi yesterday (6 December).

UN member states have signed up for the anti-pollution resolution

The resolution urges signatories to ensure that effective systems are in place to monitor air pollution, standards are set to limit air pollutants taking into account World Health Organisation guidelines and to ensure that policies are in place to reduce emissions.

The resolution states: “Every day, 9 out of 10 of us breathe air that exceeds WHO guidelines for air quality and more than 17,000 people will die prematurely because of it.”

Other commitments include ensuring that clean air policies are joined up alongside other policies in areas such as transport, energy and agriculture and to ‘take advantage of synergistic effects of efficient nitrogen management on reducing air, marine and water pollution’.

Commitment

Commenting on the resolution, Dr Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, said: “The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes.

“With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe.”

Elsewhere, Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities who were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to WHO levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.

In September, a UN advisor on human rights has criticised the ‘urgency’ of the UK government’s plan to tackle harmful levels of air pollution in towns and cities.

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, hazardous substances and wastes, made the comments after a visit to the UK in January 2017 (see airqualitynews.com story).