In the lead-up to World Cities Day, C40 Cities, an organization that connects 94 of the world’s most iconic cities to take bold climate action for a healthier and more sustainable future, has issued a letter urging action to protect clean air, which it called a human right.
The cities, collectively representing over 700 million citizens and a quarter of the global economy, are committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level, and to cleaning the air their citizens breathe.
But, the organization admits, these targets are tough, and calls for immediate action for the sake of health.
Here is their letter:
Toxic air pollution is poisoning us. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 7 million people around the world lose their lives each year because they breathe dirty air. Just this week, new data released through the C40-supported Breathe London project revealed that, on their way to school, children are exposed to air pollution that is five times more harmful than at any other time of day. The same emissions that poison the air also contribute to the global climate crisis.
We cannot stand for this. Clean air is a human right, and it’s time to take action.
That’s why 35 mayors from across the globe signed on to the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration. It commits them to working together to ensure more than 140 million people living in their cities have clean air to breathe.
Just last week, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hosted a Clean Air Summit, bringing together fellow mayors, business leaders and clean air experts to ensure cities meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.
Globally, mayors understand what needs to be done to ensure clean air for all, but they also know they cannot do it alone. C40 recently published a guidebook called We have the power to move the world, which offers advice and expertise from 14 mayors that are already taking action to clean the air, and cut greenhouse gas emission in their cities through sustainable transport.
The targets that mayors are setting will be difficult to meet. Petrol and diesel vehicles still dominate our city streets and poison the air we breathe. Pollution from buildings, waste disposal and industry all contribute to poor air quality in our cities. But we must act now. Our health – and the health of our children – hangs in the balance.
Executive Director, C40 Cities