In a bid to combat rising air pollution – one of the world's most prominent causes of premature deaths –World Health Organization (WHO) is convening the world's first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.
The meeting aims at building a consensus on reducing more than 6.5 million deaths annually due to toxic air. “Today, nearly 92 percent of people globally breathe unhealthy air,” the WHO warns. In China and India, air pollution is one of the leading contributors to death, ranked fourth and fifth respectively.
Along with affecting brain function, toxic air leads to lung cancer, heart disease and contributes to one third of deaths from stroke, recent studies show. Worst enough, no international convention exists on controlling air pollution, making it difficult to implement rules on ambient air quality.
The health and environment ministers from various countries, intergovernmental agencies, and health professionals will gather in Geneva from October 30 to November 1 to begin an inclusive process to control rising air pollution.
"Affordable strategies exist to reduce key pollution emissions from the transport, energy, agriculture, waste and housing sectors. Health-conscious strategies can reduce climate change and support Sustainable Development Goals for health, energy, and cities,” WHO maintained.
Apart from updating the recent evidence linking air pollution to an adverse affect on health, a critical agenda item is to seek a commitment to reducing air pollution by 2030.
The conference is the result of a coalition formed by UN Environment, World Meteorological Organization, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
“Reducing air pollution can curb emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) as well as long-lived carbon dioxide, slowing the pace of climate change and related impacts on water resources, agriculture, weather extremes, and health,” the coalition maintained.
The conference comes at a time when a majority of Asian cities are engulfed in choking winter smog. India, home to 14 of the most polluted cities of the world, is battling to control dense pollution choking its capital, New Delhi.
The country's environment and health ministry have a tough time explaining efforts taken to rein in the uncontrollable rise in air pollution. Stubble burning in neighboring Punjab state and firecrackers during Diwali are blamed for turning Delhi into a “gas chamber” every year.