Climate Action Network (CAN) welcomes the opportunity to offer comments and recommendations to the draft outline that has been prepared by the President of the UN Environment Assembly for a Ministerial Declaration in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017 under the overarching theme of pollution.
CAN strongly supports UNEA’s vision of a pollution-free planet. However, this vision must be strengthened with an aspirational goal outlining when this should be achieved, dependent on the type of pollution.
According to the World Health Organization and the International Energy Agency, indoor and outdoor air pollution combined is the deadliest pollution worldwide and unhealthy environments contribute to the deaths of one in four children under five years. Air pollution kills as many as eight million people prematurely across the globe annually but mostly in developing countries. Four million premature deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution, caused mostly by burning fossil fuels, primarily oil products and coal, which are the same products causing climate change.
Therefore, in order to not exceed the suggested maximum air pollution concentration recommended by the WHO (WHO air quality standards), Ministers must take the following transformative steps and solutions:
(a) Take steps to phase out coal, both in the power and industry sector, and replace it with with clean renewables while also increasing energy efficiency. Coal is responsible for at least 50% of sulfur dioxide emissions and is a major contributor to nitrous oxide and Particulate Matter (PM2.5) emissions which are three major toxic air pollutants;
(b) Reduce oil consumption particularly in the transport sector and adopt electrification based on renewables and expand public transport. Oil, particularly diesel, is a major source of black carbon and also of nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions;
(c) Prohibit the use of conventional/traditional biomass in inefficient wood stoves in developing countries and instead move to highly-efficient biomass woodstoves and biogas digesters, and other renewable energy sources.
(d) Monitor ambient air quality and make air quality data publicly available in order to provide a benchmark for air pollution reduction goals and enable individuals to protect themselves during air pollution events.
(e) Take steps to address other sources of short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons, some of which contribute to air pollution.
The declaration should also guarantee procedural rights of peoples and communities, in particular access to environmental information, public participation in decision making and access to judicial remedies, in order to enable citizens and communities to play an active role in protecting their health and environment from air pollution.
Please see our concrete textural suggestions to the current outline of the declaration in red below.