BreatheLife campaign launched at Habitat III

by CCAC secretariat - 20 October, 2016
New campaign website provides the latest World Health Organization numbers on health impacts of air pollution and explains practical solutions to improve air quality

Approximately 6 million people die prematurely each year from health complications due to air pollution. Many of these deadly pollutants like black carbon (soot) and methane also have a powerful warming effect on our atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Cities are at the forefront of this crisis but a new global campaign to protect health and the climate aims to raise awareness of the issue. The BreatheLife campaign launched at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, calls on people and leaders to imagine a future without air pollution. This solutions oriented campaign aims to inspire action and will offer practical policy measures that cities can implement to improve air quality.

BreatheLife is jointly run by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

WHO: BreatheLife – The Walk Home
Watch the BreatheLife campaign video
Remote video URL

Tone Skogen, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said the campaign is important for everyone as there is no reason for more than 6 million people to die from air pollution each year.

“The worlds cities are the worst affected and this is where we need find solutions. The technology to solve the problem is known and action will have immediate effect,” Ms Skogen said. “By addressing air pollution, we not only reduce these deaths, but we improve people's health and we address climate change. This is a win win situation, we need to pool our efforts and really get to work.”

Erik Solheim, United Nations Environment’s Executive Director, said the world should look at past environmental successes, like the elimination of acid rain, to understand that today’s reality does not need to be, and should not be, the reality for future generations.

“Air pollution is one of the fastest growing issues on the global health agenda. We have been successful at defeating and eradicating transmittable diseases and now we have need to deal with one of the biggest killers, air pollution,” Mr Solheim said. “Can we do it? We need to clamp down on short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane. We need to regulate traffic and build mass transit systems, we need to move to electric vehicles and fight dust storms, and we need to move from coal to renewables. This is not rocket science, these solutions are available now.”

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UN Environment's Erik Solheim, "The solutions exist now"

Marcelo Mena, Chile’s Vice Minister for Environment and Co-Chair of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition said it was important for cities to monitor their air pollution and to take fast practical action to improve air quality. 

“In Chile we have many cities with bad air quality but our government has come up with concrete plans to decontaminate 14 cities. We are putting in place structural measures to reduce emissions like improving transport and reducing black carbon from burning coal and wood,” Mr Mena said. “We need to bring together air pollution control and climate mitigation because at the end of the day we are dealing with the health of people, of children. We need green growth.”

Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, invited UN Environment to join the BreatheLIfe campaign.

“To beat air pollution we must work with other sectors,” Dr Dora said. “This is why we are launching this global awareness campaign. Cities are places where we have a lot of synergies.”

The BreatheLife campaign website provides the latest WHO numbers on the health impacts of air pollution and explains practical solutions to improve air quality. The BreatheLife campaign will showcase steps cities are taking to solve this problem in order to promote the multitude of available solutions and to inspire other cities to take action.  Cities can sign up on the website to request further information on becoming BreatheLife cities.

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The BreatheLife press conference at Habitat III