Governments, urban mayors and civil society at the first World Health Organization Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health this month will be asked to set targets to tackle a problem that kills 7 million people a year and costs economies billions of dollars in lost human potential.
The UN’s health body will sound a “Call for Urgent Action” for leaders to agree on broad, detailed range of commitments— including targets to reduce annual deaths by air pollution by 2030 and meet WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines— as an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.
They will also be invited to make commitments to the BreatheLife global advocacy campaign.
“We have a lot of aims for this first global conference on air pollution and health. There is an enormous amount of evidence of the harm caused by air pollution, no controversy, and we already know many of the solutions, whose benefits far outweigh costs. What we need to push for now is commitment to action by leaders, by everyone,” said WHO Director, Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department, Dr Maria Neira.
The conference comes at a time when steadily rising public knowledge of the issue has birthed a wave of citizen action around the world agitating for better air— from concerned moms and residents of cities hardest-hit by air pollution to health professionals and those who harness the explosive growth of personal air quality monitors to “democratize” the availability of air quality data through online open-data networks and apps.
Scientific evidence revealing alarmingly diverse impacts of air pollution continues to grow: apart from its well-established relationship to respiratory and heart disease, stroke and cancer, it has also been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s, intelligence, diabetes, thyroid development in foetuses, premature birth, low birth weight and asthma.
All this has helped to catapult air pollution onto the global political stage— the WHO conference will be the third gathering of world leaders this year to highlight the issue.
Last month, the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable disease, acknowledging its strong links to air pollution, and the World Health Assembly in May opened with the same at the top of its agenda.
The WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health is an opportunity for leaders to harness this growing volume of scientific evidence, swell of public concern and political momentum to commit to real action that will save lives and cut human suffering.
A CONCERT FOR CLEAN AIR
BreatheLife for a Healthy People – Healthy Planet
31 October 2018,
20:30 – 22:00
Salles des Assemblées, Palais des Nations, Geneva
Featuring Grammy® Winner and ‘United Nations Humanitarian Artist’ Ricky Kej, this free public concert event will expand awareness in the Geneva international community about air pollution as a critical health, climate and environment issue through music, video and art. Known for his signature ‘Music for the Planet’, Ricky Kej and his ensemble of musicians from countries as diverse as Ghana, India, Peru, Viet Nam, South Africa and the USA will play compositions of ‘World Music for Healthy People and Planet’.
Find out more here.
The concert is free to the public and delegates, but you MUST REGISTER by Tuesday, 30 October.
Banner photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0