Climate Action Network (CAN) welcomes the opportunity to offer comments and recommendations to the zero draft of the Ministerial Outcome Document of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet” and compliments the President of the United Nations Environment Assembly and Minister of Environment and Energy of the Republic of Costa Rica for designing an open and transparent process in developing the Declaration.
While we recognize that the Declaration has several useful elements to identify the most pressing issues related to pollution, we consider that the Ministerial Declaration still falls short in identifying concrete steps towards the goal of ending pollution in all its forms.
With air pollution being the single largest, deadly and detrimental pollution impact that prematurely kills almost 8 million people annually, mostly in developing countries, CAN is fully supportive of the recommendations of the recent scientific report of UN Environment “Towards a Pollution Free Planet”. In line with Climate Action Network expertise, we would like to offer some concrete suggestions on how to strengthen the declaration considerably by committing to concrete measures towards ending air pollution globally.
Concrete recommendations for reducing air pollution globally
In line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals Ministers should commit to the following:
- Phasing out coal by 2030 in developed nations and by 2040 in developing countries, given that coal is the single largest source of carbon and air pollution;
- Phase out Diesel fuels in the next two decades in all transport and other usages as a main source for deadly particulate emissions and NOx that are particularly impacting large and densely populated cities;
- Rapidly develop national legislative and implementation plans to overcome, by 2030 at the latest, the high dependence of a large portion of developing countries’ poor households to locally sourced and very inefficiently combusted biomass like animal dung and firewood and promote, fund and support much less polluting and clean cooking practices such as efficient woodstoves, biogas digesters and sustainable agroforesty schemes for producing fuel wood;
- Adopt the World Health Organization air quality guidelines, including those for indoor air quality, as a minimum for national standards and invest in strong air quality monitoring systems;
- Meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines through the reduction of emissions from major industrial sources including particulate matter, sulphates, nitrogen oxides, persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals;
- Reduce global vehicle emissions by at least 90 per cent through the introduction of advanced vehicle emissions standards (e.g. at least Euro 4 level) in 5 years, and a move to only electric vehicles being added to fleets by 2030;
- Offer effective and affordable public transport and non-motorized transport infrastructure in all cities above 500,000 inhabitants by 2030;
- Increase the share of non-polluting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and tidal to 36 per cent by 2030, while addressing related production and waste stages of such (notably, batteries);
- Increase access of households to clean cooking fuels and technologies;
- Protect and restore ecosystems to avoid air pollution in drylands, rangelands and other areas prone to erosion, fire, desiccation and other forms of degradation;
- Expand green spaces in urban areas to improve ambient air quality in cities;
- Commit to working with every possible stakeholder to rapidly explore and implement every possible solution to end the pollution of our air, soil, freshwater and oceans, and to protect ecosystems and the climate;
- Strengthen reference to the role that public access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to judicial remedies can play in empowering communities to address the sources of pollution and their impacts. These references must be distinct and complementary to references to the importance of science-based decision-making and the role of research;
- Set-up an interministerial working group that functions as a coordination body, with specific sub-groups on various kinds of pollution, under the auspices of UNEP in early 2018 with an intention to review a global action plan in 2019 and identify concrete measures and targets and timetables to significantly reduce and eventually abolish all forms of pollution by well before 2050. The interministerial and working groups should not be limited to governmental experts but informed by civil society, scientists, and businesses working on clean technologies; and
- Finally, we would encourage Ministers to act on the basis of the precautionary principle when dealing with risks from pollution, the design of global policy and the instigation of research.