WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas launched the coalition during the 71st World Health Assembly.
Taalas cited record-level costs of natural disasters, particularly tropical cyclones, and called for greater urgency in implementing the Paris Agreement.
Solheim noted that increased use of renewable energy will lead to fewer deaths from air pollution.
25 May 2018: The World Health Organization (WHO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have launched a global coalition on health, environment and climate change, which aims to improve coordination and reduce the annual 12.6 million deaths caused by environmental risks, especially air pollution.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas launched the coalition during the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), which met from 21-26 May 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to the WHO, approximately seven million people die prematurely every year from air pollution-related diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, respiratory illness and cancer. Air pollution exceeds WHO air quality standards in the majority of cities. Air pollutants, which also harm the environment and contribute to climate change, include black carbon from diesel engines, cooking stoves and waste incineration, and ground-level ozone. Emission reductions of these short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) from traffic, cookstoves, agriculture and industry could help reduce global warming by about 0.5°C by 2050.
The coalition will help organize the Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, to take place in Geneva from 30 October to 1 November 2018.
Highlighting the need to address SLCPs, WMO Secretary-General Taalas said that cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is a priority as atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2017 topped 400 parts per million (ppm). He cited record-level costs of natural disasters, particularly tropical cyclones, and called for greater urgency in implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Solheim noted that increased use of renewable energy will lead to fewer deaths from air pollution.
The coalition will see WMO strengthen actions targeting health protection from environment and climate change-related risks, including through better provision of climate services such as seasonal outlooks, which can improve management of climate-sensitive diseases like cholera and malaria, heat-health warnings and multi-hazard early warning services.
The coalition’s initial efforts include a focus on air quality outlining five areas of joint work, including through the WMO’s observing network, its Sand and Dust Storm Warning, Advisory and Assessment System and its Global Atmosphere Watch stations, which monitor the atmosphere.