Unpacking the newly adopted UNEA-6 Resolution on Promoting Regional Cooperation on Air Pollution to Improve Air Quality Globally

by CCAC Secretariat - 27 March, 2024
It's time to move the needle on air pollution and champion integrated solutions for people and planet

On March 1, the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), the world’s highest level decision-making body for environmental issues, passed several important resolutions and decisions across the environmental space.

With increased global attention on air pollution, and particularly the life-threatening impacts on human health and wellbeing, a global resolution on air pollution was passed, calling for increased regional cooperation as well as the development of national programmes, policies and standards.

To help unpack the importance of the resolution, the Secretariat recently sat down with members of the CCAC’s leadership on its expected impact globally, and how the CCAC will champion an integrated approach that addresses the whole of the planetary crisis.


Rick Duke, CCAC Co-Chair and Deputy Presidential Envoy for Climate, USA
Peter Justice Dery, CCAC Co-Chair and Director, Environment Division, at the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana
Martina Otto, Head of CCAC Secretariat
Drew Shindell, Chair of the CCAC Science Advisory Panel and Professor of Earth Science at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment

Rick, your colleagues in State were the proponents of this resolution, what do you see as the biggest impact of this resolution, and why is it so important to call for increased regional and global cooperation in tackling air pollution? 

First, we need to be clear on the scope of the challenge we face when it comes to the impact of air pollution on our communities. 

Almost all of us, over 99% of the world, are exposed to unsafe air. This is not simply a problem that affects a far-off corner of the world; it is in our neighbourhoods, our backyards, and frankly all around us. And with this pollution quickly come devastating consequences, prematurely killing nearly 7 million people around the globe, in addition to the millions of individuals who seek health treatments due to toxic air or miss work and school days – shaving off a good part of GDP globally. 

It’s abundantly clear that the cost of inaction is far too high.  Air pollution knows no border. Tackling this challenge cannot be done in silos; it requires countries around the world to cooperate and work together to implement strong air quality monitoring and implement tried and tested methods that help cut pollution, creating cleaner communities for us all. 

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition has worked over the past decade to accelerate efforts to improve air quality globally, and in the implementation of this new resolution we can count on this solid network and the new Clean Air Flagship to drive a focused effort. 

As a key proponent of this initiative, the United States is committed to continuing to work closely with all member states as we collectively slash air pollution. 

Peter, the resolution references the Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa, as well as its proposed Africa Clean Air Programme. Can you walk us through the benefits of these programmes, and why this resolution is particularly essential to galvanize action across Africa?

Short-lived climate pollutants have already left their mark on our continent, impacting air quality, affecting rain patterns, and contributing to drought across Africa.  

Air pollution and climate change are a particularly deadly duo for Africa, disproportionally harming women, children, the elderly, and the poor.  Across our continent alone, approximately 1 million people die prematurely per year due to health impacts of poor air quality. If we are to create a cleaner future for our children, and keep 1.5°C within reach, we need to act fast.  

This urgent situation calls for action. As you mentioned, this resolution touches on several key initiatives already underway that stand to make a real difference in our communities.

The CCAC and UNEP, in partnership with the African Union Commission, produced the Integrated Assessment of Air Pollution and Climate Change for Sustainable Development in Africa.  This report clearly demonstrates that tangible and ready-to-go solutions can address these challenges, highlighting 37 actionable measures across 5 sectors: transport, residential, energy, agriculture, and waste.  

A key recommendation of this assessment, endorsed by African Environment Ministers at AMCEN, is the development of an Africa Clean Air Programme. With CCAC support, this continent-wide initiative will be designed by Africa, for Africa, taking into consideration our distinct regional needs and opportunities.  

To tackle the super pollutants that contribute to air pollution, we need coordinated action across all levels, from local cities and regions to national governments. The Africa Clean Air Programme, with built-in partnerships, knowledge-sharing, and collaborations across all African countries, will help us build more climate-resilient communities across the continent.  

It is essential that we act together to implement our plans at scale and achieve our goals for the good of all - and this resolution has collaboration at its heart.  


Martina, what role does the CCAC play in this resolution, and how does it complement the work already being done by the Coalition?

As an action-oriented partnership with over 160 governments, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations, our ‘every day’ is working together to implement existing cost-effective solutions around the world, and reduce powerful super pollutants that impact both climate change and air pollution. This includes methane, as a precursor to tropospheric ozone, and black carbon. At the CCAC, strengthening regional cooperation is right up our ally, and we can be a cornerstone in the implementation of this resolution.

At COP28 in Dubai, the CCAC launched the Clean Air Flagship, which will help move the needle on achieving clean air around the world by strengthening global cooperation, deploying action based on the latest science, and mobilizing climate finance through a ‘clean air sprint’. In the development of the Clean Air Flagship, and now in its operationalisation, we drew on a Task Team that brought together key CCAC partners, including the WHO and WMO, C40, WRI, Clean Air Fund, World Economic Forum, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNESCAP, UNECE/FICAP, as well as several country partners.

The resolution calls clearly for a global online air quality platform and cooperation network. To support this effort, and building on CCAC’s existing air quality work, we are developing a new air quality management platform as part of the Clean Air Flagship, which will facilitate air quality control measures across local, national, and regional levels. This integration across all levels is crucial, given the transboundary nature of tackling air pollution.

And we are already furthering a plan to make good on the Clean Air Programme for Africa.

Another way that we can combat air pollution is by working with our partners to advocate for a heightened focus on reducing super pollutants in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. NDCs are at the heart of limiting warming – embodying efforts by each country to reduce national emissions. As we support countries this year in their efforts to enhance their NDCs, we will highlight super pollutants as well as clean air outcomes.  

It’s time to move the needle on air pollution, for people and planet.

Drew, we know that an integrated, scientific approach is key to addressing air pollution. What gives you hope that this resolution will help implement science-based policies and innovative solutions towards cleaner air?

Solutions to the climate crisis do not exist in silos, and to tackle air pollution means to tackle broader climate issues as well. As Rick said, the scope of the challenge is large, and we must use every tool at our disposal.

We already know what can help make the difference. As a first step, investing in low-cost sensors to monitor air quality, passive samplers, increased satellite data, and other digital tools to track air pollution are key.

But let’s be clear: we do not need to wait for every scientific gap to be identified before we take rapid action with proven methods that will help to improve air quality. Improving efficiencies and applying existing mitigation technologies across transportation, agriculture, household energy, and waste can have an immediate impact on our daily lives.

The resolution also calls for us, as a global community, to create the space to share information and best practices among member states, which is crucial to reducing toxic pollutants that can choke our communities.

The CCAC takes a science-based approach in everything we do. Just last year, we launched our Technology and Assessment Panel (TEAP), designed as a knowledge sharing platform to help countries deploy existing mitigation methods that are tried and tested. By building on an integrated scientific approach, TEAP showcases how these technologies can help improve both our air quality and tackle the climate crisis at the same time.

One thing is clear: by tackling air pollution, we can breathe easier knowing that we have created a cleaner and more sustainable world for our children.