WHO urges global measures to cut black carbon

Report by World Health Organisation suggests measures to reduce air pollutants affecting both human health and climate change

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the “urgent need” to reduce emissions of black carbon, ozone and methane — air pollutants which adversely impact on human health as well as contributing to climate change.

World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

In a report published yesterday (October 22), the UN agency describes these three pollutants, as well as carbon dioxide, as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) which produce both a strong global warming effect and contribute to the more than seven million estimated global premature deaths linked to air pollution each year.

It comes ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament on proposed updates to the National Emissions Ceilings Directive next week (October 28), at which there is expected to be much debate surrounding whether or not, or indeed how stringently, to limits the likes of ammonia and methane emissions.

The WHO report — ‘Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants’ — suggests a number of measures to cut SLCPs, which it says can have a number of co-benefits in reducing disease and death, contributing to food security, improving diets and increasing physical activity.

WHO has set out four major available and affordable interventions which it believes could be most effective at reducing SLCP emissions:

  • Reducing vehicle emissions by implementing higher emissions and efficiency standards, which could reduce black carbon and other co-pollutants from fossil fuels.
  • Policies and investments that prioritise dedicated rapid transit such as buses and trains and foster safe pedestrian and cycle networks can promote multiple benefits.
  • Providing cleaner and more efficient stove and fuel alternatives to the approximately 2.8 billion low-income households worldwide dependent on primarily wood, dung and other solid fuels for heating and cooking.
  • Encouraging high and middle-income populations to increase their consumption of nutritious plant-based foods could reduce heart disease and some cancers, and slow methane emissions associated with some animal-sourced foods.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO, commeted: “Every day, these pollutants threaten the health of men, women and children. For the first time, this report recommends actions that countries, health and environment ministries, and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illness and premature deaths, which often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable.”

Lives saved

The report builds on a 2011 assessment by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organisation, which estimated that a global roll-out of 16 SLCP reduction measures would prevent an average of 2.4 million premature deaths annually by 2030.

According to WHO, new estimates could also raise that to 3.5 million lives saved each year by 2030, and between three and five million lives per year by 2050.

Helena Molin Valdés, head of the UNEP-hosted CCAC, said: “Quick action to reduce black carbon, methane and other ozone precursors are much needed now. We know that the sooner we start reducing these pollutants the sooner we will relieve the pressures on climate and human health.”

Maria Neira, WHO director of the department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, added: “The health benefits that may be obtained from these strategies are far larger than previously understood, and they can be enjoyed immediately and locally. The environment and health sectors can now prioritize interventions to meet both of their goal — preventing climate change and ensuring good health.”

The report was produced in collaboration with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a voluntary global partnership of governments, intergovernmental organisations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society.

Related Links:

WHO report on SLCPs


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8 years ago

Life Is Good
The smoggy 70’s, back when a river caught fire in Ohio have been defeated and now Smog Warning days in Canada and the U.S. have thankfully been rare while our longevity rates continue to sore. Life is good.
*Air Quality “Alters”, “Advisories”, “Watches” and “Be Kind To Air Days” are not measurements of anything more than weather conditions that “could” lead to a Smog Warning (actual smog) being issued.*

And now the science’s of clean burning and fracking are giving us long term, cheap and clean energy for hundreds of years to come so now is the time for prioritizing global population control instead of exaggerating vague climate science;
Science is 100% certain smoking will cause cancer and have never said the same or said; “PROVEN” for their own CO2 Armageddon even after the last 34 years of climate action debate, delay, denial and global disbelief.

8 years ago
Reply to  mememine

On a different planet?
Smog is now invisible,and you never saw the gases.Fool’s paradise.

8 years ago

Officials should thus go after wood burners as much as vehicles. We can heat the individual instead of the whole house by wearing long underwear, good socks, even two sweaters.

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