UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd on Monday urged governments to take bold action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change and fulfil their human rights obligations.
“Air pollution is a silent, invisible and prolific killer that is responsible for the premature death of 7.0 million people each year, disproportionately affecting women, children and poor communities,” said the independent UN expert ahead of World Environment Day that falls on June 5, reports UNB.
Some 7 million people die prematurely every year from air pollution. Among the 7 million, 600,000 are children while 90 percent of world’s population breathe polluted air, according to a message received from Geneva.
He said failing to ensure clean air constitutes a violation of the rights to life, health and wellbeing, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment. “States must take urgent action to improve air quality to fulfil their human rights obligations.”
Boyd said clean air is a core component of the right to a healthy environment, together with clean water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environment, healthy biodiversity and a safe climate.
He said the right to a healthy environment is fundamental to human wellbeing and is legally recognised by over 150 states at the national and regional levels. “It should be globally reaffirmed to ensure the enjoyment of this right by everyone, everywhere while upholding the human rights principles of universality and non-discrimination.”
Boyd, also an associate professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, said there are numerous success stories of drastically reducing air pollution from across the world, including China, who is hosting World Environment Day this year. “These stories prove that air pollution is a preventable problem.”
He reiterated seven key steps from his recent UN Human Rights Council report that States must take - monitor air quality and impacts on human health; assess sources of air pollution; make information publicly available, including public health advisories; establish air quality legislation, regulations, standards and policies; develop air quality action plans at the local, national and, if necessary, regional levels; implement the air quality action plan and enforce the standards; and evaluate progress and, if necessary, strengthen the plan to ensure that the standards are met.
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