UNECE Countries Renew Commitment to Clean Air for Better Environment and Human Health
Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR
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The declaration recognizes air pollution as the “single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally”.

Parties reaffirm their commitment to improving air quality in order to foster a better environment and reduce negative impacts on human health, in light of new challenges that continue to emerge.

During the 39th session of the Executive Body for the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, ministers and high-level representatives of Parties to the Convention approved a declaration to renew their commitment for action on cleaner air in the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region, in line with the Long-term Strategy for the Convention for 2020-2030 and beyond.

At a Special Anniversary Session, held from 11-12 December 2019, representatives from over 50 countries, inter alia, acknowledged milestones under the Convention, discussed visions for future development of the Convention, showcased recent developments in their countries, and shared experiences and lessons learned. At the same time, participants recognized that some challenges still exist to implement the Convention, and highlighted the need for further support.

The declaration (ECE/EB.AIR/2019/6) recognizes air pollution as the “single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally,” which also affects the economy, ecosystems and climate. It expresses appreciation for the Air Convention’s demonstrated success in providing a regional framework for controlling and reducing the damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution through: decoupling pollutant emissions and economic growth; substantially reducing emissions of certain air pollutants; and reversing or decelerating acidification in forest soils and lakes.

Parties reaffirm their commitment to improving air quality in order to foster a better environment and reduce negative impacts on human health, in light of new challenges that continue to emerge. To address the environmental threats and health problems associated with air pollution, they call for, among other actions:

  • Maximizing the impact of the Air Convention;
  • Ensuring the provision of resources for the effective long-term operation of the Convention’s monitoring, modeling and assessment capabilities;
  • Continuing to focus on the pollutants best controlled at the regional level and considering the need for further action to address remaining and emerging issues;
  • Supporting scientific activities that respond to policy needs and questions, influence priorities and guide decisions;
  • Improving cooperation between different levels of government; and
  • Promoting an integrated approach to environmental policymaking, recognizing that air pollution is the central link in the interaction between ground-level ozone, nitrogen, human health, climate change and ecosystems.

Parties also launched the forum for international cooperation on air pollution. This initiative will support international exchange of information and mutual learning on the technical and policy levels, and serve as a repository for technical information and a convener of countries and organizations, facilitating increased international cooperation.

Parties also celebrated the entry into force, on 7 October 2019, of the amended Gothenburg Protocol, which regulates emission reductions for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP). [Declaration on Clean Air for 2020-2030 and Beyond in UNECE Region] [UNECE Press Release]

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