5 June 2019

Africa: World Environment Day

Photo: UNEP
A photograph taken during United Nations Environment Programme research into oil industry pollution in the Niger Delta (file photo).
press release

Geneva - Ahead of World Environment Day on 5 June, an independent UN expert has urged States to beat air pollution to fulfill their human rights obligations.

"Air pollution is a silent, invisible and prolific killer that is responsible for the premature death of 7 million people each year, disproportionately affecting women, children and poor communities," said David Boyd, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

"Failing to ensure clean air constitutes a violation of the rights to life, health and well-being, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment. States must take urgent action to improve air quality to fulfill 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.

"The right to a healthy environment is fundamental to human well-being 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.

"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.

"In celebration of World Environment Day, I urge States to take bold action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change and fulfill their human rights obligations," the expert said.

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