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Cities that take action against air pollution receive quick and tangible health benefits for residents.
This is one of the key messages to be put forward when the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) will host a side event at the Conference of the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom2) of UN Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya. The event, titled City Action on Air Pollution for Immediate Health & Near-Term Climate Benefits, will be co-hosted by Norway and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The event will provide examples of cities that have achieved health and climate benefits by addressing key sources of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) from transport, domestic cooking and heating, and open burning of waste.
At least seven million premature deaths annually are attributed to air pollution – one in eight premature deaths globally.
At least seven million premature deaths annually are attributed to air pollution – one in eight premature deaths globally. A significant proportion of these deaths occur in developing cities where air pollution levels are high and growing rapidly. Only 12% of cities worldwide achieve WHO guideline levels for air pollution, and some cities suffer from air pollution levels that are as much as 10 times, or more, above the guideline limits.
More than half the world’s population live in cities. By 2050, the urban population will double in size, and most of that growth will occur in low and middle-income cities. Acting to control urban air pollution is therefore an urgent health issue. By reducing urban air pollution levels, cities and countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
Urban air pollution is also a critical climate issue. Short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane are main contributors to air pollution that is harmful to health. These SLCPs have a short lifespan in the atmosphere, meaning that harmful concentrations of SLCPs can be reduced in a matter of weeks to years, resulting in near-term climate benefits as well as health benefits from improved air quality.
There are a range of affordable technologies, investment strategies and policy options that municipalities can choose to significantly reduce short-lived climate pollutants. These involve land use/spatial planning, transport, building efficiencies, energy production and waste management. Many of these same strategies, such as planning infrastructures for mass transit or non-motorized transport, also reduce long-lived CO2 and support better health in other dimensions, such as physical activity and traffic safety.
The CCAC operates an Urban Health Initiative, which is currently conducting a worldwide mapping of city initiatives that focus on climate, SLCPs and air quality. Pilot cities will subsequently be selected for further work. The initiative is led by the World Health Organization, World Bank, UNEP, Norway, the United States, ICIMOD, and ICLEI, all partners in the CCAC. Through the PrepCom2 side event the CCAC aims to engage more cities in the work of the initiative.