International Mayors work together at climate talks to fight air pollution

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During the second day of the 8th Sustainable Innovation Forum, a host of city Mayors and regions joined forces to discuss ways to tackle air pollution in their home countries.

The unique roundtable debate on clean air and climate was organised by UN Environment and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

The event was attended by 22 Mayors and regional representatives taken from a range of countries, including Australia, Greece, Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Sweden, and Indonesia.

The debate was linked to UN Environment’s BreathLife campaign, which calls on cities to protect the planet and the health of its citizens from the effects of air pollution.

During the discussion, the Mayors detailed the practical steps, ideas, and solutions to combat pollution and future measures to create healthier cities including reskilling workers in the fossil fuel industry, parking schemes to discourage car use, collecting data on air quality, and using street lighting more efficiently.

Non-government participants included leading organisations, NGOs and private sector companies such as the World Health Organisation, the BMW Group and Bertrand Piccard, Pilot of the Solar Impulse.

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said: “By tackling the root causes of air pollution, cities are delivering a better quality of life for their citizens and concrete action on climate change. This shows that positive environmental action is not a burden, but rather an exciting opportunity. Cleaner cities will be happier, healthier and more productive”.

Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General, commented: "Over two million lives are lost every year to air pollution. With the same means by which we power our economies and move to one place to the other, we also slowly poison ourselves. Fossil fuels are suffocating, sometimes literally, our cities and us who live in them”.

“We came to COP23 to discuss how to accelerate climate action at all levels. Phasing out fossil fuels is not only going to prevent the climate from changing even further. It will also save lives. ICLEI is proud to support this crucial BreathLife campaign to enact, in our cities, as many measures and policies possible to reduce current and prevent future air pollution”.

On 13 November 2017, during the 1st day of the Sustainable Innovation Forum, 10 regional governments across the world joined the BreathLife campaign during an event organised by UN Environment and the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD).

The regions which joined are Gossas (Senegal), Jalisco and Campeche (Mexico), Plateau (Benin), Catalonia and Basque Country (Spain), Chaco (Argentina), Azuay (Ecuador), Lombardy (Italy) and Valle de Aburra (Colombia).

By joining the campaign, these regions have committed to take action to mitigate air pollution and pursue the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality standards for clean air by 2030.

Policies to be pursued are the implementation of mobility and transportation policies, such as sustainable and clean transportation, vehicle pollution control and the development of long-term efficient mass transit, setting up standards on emissions for both households and industries and regulating the disposal and management of solid waste.

Natalia Vera, Secretary-General of nrg4SD said: "Regional governments play a defining role in reducing and controlling air pollution”.

She added: “Acting over the whole territory, the further engagement of regions could be game-changing, especially through the regulation of industrial activities, transportation, emissions standards, energy production and distribution, waste management and others”.   

You can learn more on the BreathLife campaign here

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