Ground-breaking Clean Air Protocol to Guard Human Health and the Planet, Enters into Force

Credit: Bigstock.

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 2019 (IPS)

European and North American countries will take a major stride
in cleaning up the atmosphere next Monday, 7 October, through the
implementation of an amended legally binding treaty to limit the
amount of emissions polluting the air.

With 18 countries and the European Union now having ratified the
amended treaty, from a total of 51 who have signed, including many
of the countries which are part of the UN Economic Commission for
Europe (UNECE), the
official entry into force marks an important step to curb
pollutants closely-linked to climate change,
ecosystem degeneration, and potentially life-threatening human
health.


The Gothenburg Protocol,
 established back in 1999, sets
forth legally-binding emissions reduction commitments for 2020
and beyond, for major air pollutants, and is rooted in the
UNECE’s 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air
Pollution (LRTAP), originally
intended to stop the occurrence of acid rain.

Beyond targeting well-known air pollutants, the
Protocol was updated in 2012 to include reduction of
fine particulate matter, pollutants shown to cause devastating
climate change effects over short periods of time.

 

7 million premature deaths per year

UN experts have deemed air
pollution a human rights violation – a deadly, man-made problem
responsible for some seven million premature deaths, every year,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

UN experts have deemed air pollution a human rights violation –
a deadly, man-made problem responsible for some seven million
premature deaths, every year, according to the World Health
Organization

The agency has said toxic air is “the world’s largest single
environmental health risk” and a leading cause of death by
cancer.

The Protocol sets emission ceilings for major
polluters: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia
(NH3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine Particulate
Matter (PM2.5), shown to damage human health.

The compounds are released from various household and ambient
sources; from motor fuel combustion, to heat and power
generation, to cooking and heating fuels; having lasting health
effects even with only mild exposure.

Of the pollutants the Protocol aims to target, Particulate
Matter, NOx and (SO2), show the strongest evidence of causing
harm, WHO found.

Smoke poses the most serious threat to humans, as a
pollutant composed of fine particles that can enter the lungs,
travel through the bloodstream and penetrate vital organs.

Approximately 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using
polluting fuels, and around 3.8 million die each year from exposure
to air pollution.,
WHO
says.

Slashing levels of particulate matter, specifically a component
known as black carbon, could also help in the fight against
climate change. Scientists have found that
black carbon, which has light-absorbing properties, remains in the
atmosphere for little time, yet has drastically darkened snow
and ice in the Artic region, thereby contributing to regional
warming.

 

40 years – clean air

As parties break new ground in clean air policy, additional
UNECE Member States are expected to ratify the Protocol in coming
months.

The 1979 LRTAP Convention will see 40
years
 since its inception in December, growing from 32
countries to now 51 Parties, and giving birth to eight protocols
which have set emission reduction commitments through the
decades, including Gothenburg.

UNECE has recognized that the LRTAP and its protocols have
reached achievements that are “unparalleled”, from decoupling
emissions and economic growth, cutting back certain air pollutants
by 40 to 80 per cent, recovering forest soils from acidification,
and avoiding some 600,000 premature deaths per year.

In another bid to protect human health and the environment this
week, a group of more than 100 scientific experts have advised the
elimination of a new group of hazardous chemicals, during the
15th meeting of the Stockholm Pollutant Review
Committee (POPRC-15).

The compounds Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and its
salts, which are widely used in a number of consumer goods from
carpets to clothing and leather, have shown to be detrimental to
the human nervous system, brain development and endocrine system
and thyroid hormone.

A follow-up 2020 meeting will further review impacts of two
additional hazardous chemicals, Dechlorane Plus and Methoxychlor,
taking into account the substances’ toxic impact on humans and
wildlife, which would lead action toward their elimination, or
reduction in production and use.

 

This story was originally published by UN
News

The post
Ground-breaking Clean Air Protocol to Guard Human Health and the
Planet, Enters into Force
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Ground-breaking Clean Air Protocol to Guard Human Health and the Planet, Enters into Force