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Ministers from the pan-European region pledge renewed action for cleaner air

Published: 09 June 2016

Ministers and high-level representatives from 28 countries and organizations participating in the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi, Georgia, committed today to accelerate ambitious action to combat air pollution over the next five years.

Countries committed to specific actions in five main areas: monitoring; national action programmes; public awareness; capacity-building; and policy. Examples of concrete actions countries have promised to carry out include promoting electric mobility, improving emission inventories, launching information campaigns and developing smartphone applications on air quality.

The Batumi Action for Cleaner Air, the framework encompassing the country commitments, was launched in the presence of children from a local school in Batumi, who handed over balloons to ministers as a symbol of entrusting them to work on cleaner air for their future.

Air pollution is still the world’s largest environmental health threat. Worldwide, 7 million people — about the size of the population of Bulgaria — die each year as a result of exposure to air pollution. Air pollution also has significant effects on the environment and the climate. Recent peaks of air pollution in cities in Europe and around the globe are a stark reminder that this is an acute and pressing problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 95 per cent of the urban population in the European Union is exposed to air pollution (PM2.5) concentrations above WHO guideline levels.

Contrary to public perception, air pollution is much more than a local problem. Pollutants emitted in one country travel long distances and affect the environment and public health in others. In many countries, the current transboundary contribution to air pollution already exceeds the WHO guidelines. Local and national actions are thus not sufficient to reduce air pollution.

Notes for editors

The Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference is being held in Batumi, Georgia, from 8 to 10 June 2016. The two major themes of the Conference are “Improving air quality for a better environment and human health” and “Greening the economy in the pan-European region”. 

The Batumi Action for Cleaner Air is one of the main outcomes of the Conference. It was developed by the Bureau to the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Air Convention). The Batumi Action for Cleaner Air provides Governments and other stakeholders with a list of possible actions to address local, national and regional air pollution problems. It is meant to serve as a supporting tool, providing concrete suggestions that will help Governments to improve implementation of their existing commitments to reduce air pollution, including under the UNECE Air Convention and its protocols.

To make the Batumi Action for Cleaner Air more practical and concrete, as well as to increase its political relevance, countries and other stakeholders were invited to voluntarily commit to some specific actions contained in it. Subsequently, countries and other stakeholders that make commitments are encouraged to implement the actions they have committed to and to report on progress at meetings of the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.

All of the actions that countries (and organizations) have committed to can be found on the following website: tab: BACA

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