Tag Archives: air pollution

UN report paints mixed picture of global responses to declining air quality

The new report from the UNEP24 May 2016 – Noting that from 2008 to 2013, air pollution levels in urban areas increased by eight per cent, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spotlights the need to support introduction of more renewable energies and clean cook stoves, some of the vital actions aimed at combating this public health emergency.

Air pollution kills seven million people each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.

Actions on Air Quality, released today at the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) under way in Nairobi, Kenya, found that there is a growing momentum for change, such as improved access to cleaner cooking fuels and stoves, renewables, fuel sulphur content and public transport.

However, action in other areas is less impressive and will not halt the increase in air pollution that is threatening to claim many more lives, the report warned.

“The current global response to pervasive poor air quality is inadequate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Despite this lack of a holistic response, numerous countries and regions are coming up with effective – and cost-effective – measures to improve air quality. The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to replicate those best practices globally, and bring about cleaner air, and social and economic benefits worldwide.”

While policies and standards on clean fuels and vehicles could reduce emissions by 90 per cent, only 29 per cent of countries worldwide have adopted ‘Euro 4’ vehicles emissions standards or above. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of countries regulate open waste burning, which is a leading cause of air pollution.

On the positive side, 97 countries have increased the percentage of households that have access to cleaner burning fuels to more than 85 per cent – a key move to tackle indoor air pollution, which claims over half of the seven million lives.

At least 82 countries out of 193 analysed have incentives that promote investment in renewable energy production, cleaner production, energy efficiency and/or pollution control equipment. Last year, for the first time, renewables accounted for a majority of the new electricity-generating capacity added around the world, at an investment of $286 billion, according to research by UNEP, Bloomberg and the Frankfurt School.

A Review of Air Pollution Control in Beijing: 1998-2013, which was also released today, analyzed measures implemented since Beijing began launching air pollution control programmes, which saw a steady downward trend in the concentrations of many harmful pollutants.

“Even though the air pollution control programmes in Beijing have made substantial progress, the environment quality is far from satisfactory,” said Chen Tian, Director General of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. “We will continue to explore approaches that could work effectively for improving the environment in this region.”

UN health agency spotlights role of health in sustainable development as governing body begins session

Director-General of the WHO Margaret Chan addresses the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva23 May 2016 – Health holds a prominent and central role that benefits the entire sustainable development agenda, because the ultimate objective of all development activities is to sustain human lives in good health, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, calling for greater efforts to combat the major challenges of antimicrobial resistance, the world drug problem and the high costs of non-communicable diseases on the road to strengthening health systems.

“WHO, together with its multiple partners, is poised to save many more millions of lives. I ask you to remember this purpose as we go through an agenda that can mean so much for the future,” she added.

Dr. Chan noted that public health constantly struggles to hold infectious diseases at bay, to change lifestyle behaviours, and to find enough money to do these and many other jobs, but sometimes the world needs to “step back and celebrate.”

“Commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) brought focus, energy, creative innovation, and above all money to bear on some of the biggest health challenges that marred the start of this century,” she said.

As such, the world can celebrate the 19,000 fewer children dying every day, a 44 per cent drop in maternal mortality, and the 85 per cent of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured. Africa, in particular, can celebrate the 60 per cent decline in malaria mortality, while as the result of the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, more than 15 million people living with HIV are now receiving antiretroviral therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000, the Director-General stressed.

An interconnected world leads to global health threats

Highlighting some of the main global health concerns, the Director-General underscored that air pollution is a transboundary hazard that affects the global atmosphere and contributes to climate change, while drug-resistant pathogens, including the growing number of “superbugs,” travel well internationally in people, animals and food. In addition, the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, especially to children, is now a global phenomenon, while safeguarding the quality of pharmaceutical products has become much harder, with complex manufacturing procedures and supply chains spanning multiple companies and countries, she said.ick kiln production is responsible for air pollution in many cities of the world. Credit: UNEP

Moreover, she noted that ensuring the quality of the food supply is also much harder when a single meal can contain ingredients from all around the world, including some potentially contaminated with exotic pathogens. Furthermore, the Ebola outbreak in three small countries had paralyzed the world with fear and travel constraints, while the rapidly evolving outbreak of Zika warns us that an old disease in Africa and Asia can suddenly wake up on a new continent to cause a global health emergency.

‘Slow-motion disasters’ shaping the global health landscape

In addition, the Director-General highlighted that as the international community enters the era of sustainable development, the global health landscape is being shaped by three “slow-motion disasters”: a changing climate, the failure of more and more mainstay antimicrobials, and the rise of chronic non-communicable diseases as the leading killers worldwide.

For its part, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is attempting to ensure that these and many other disasters are averted, the Director-General said.

“The agenda aims to do nothing less than transform the way the world, and the international systems that govern it, work,” Dr. Chan said.