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UNECE shares lessons learnt in reducing air pollution through its Air Convention at World Clean Air Congress

From bad air quality in Paris, smog in New Delhi, air pollution alerts in Seoul – the air pollution problem, is omnipresent, particularly in big cities. Urgent efforts are needed to develop and implement the policies, investment programs and technologies required to reduce air pollution emissions, which today kill 7 million people worldwide. For this reason, successful approaches to improving air quality are receiving increasing attention.

This week in Istanbul, Turkey, the 18th World Clean Air Congress provided a worldwide platform for scientists, policy makers and the private sector to discuss state-of-the-art scientific knowledge and the latest progress and technical solutions available.

Participating in the Congress, UNECE shared the experience of 40 years of successful cooperation in the framework of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Air Convention).

The Convention remains the only binding regional agreement of its kind anywhere in the world. Under the Convention, 51 countries in Europe – including all EU Member States – and North America are cooperating to reduce deadly air pollution.

This has achieved significant results: emissions of harmful substances including particulate matter and sulphur have been cut by 30-80% since 1990 in Europe and 30-40% in North America. In Europe, these measures account for 1 additional year of life expectancy, and prevent 600,000 premature deaths annually.

Presenting at an event organized by the World Bank, UNECE showcased the work under the Convention to support countries’ efforts to maintain a high rate of reporting, including through its capacity-development activities and by facilitating experience sharing and knowledge transfer. Through these activities, UNECE assists countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in developing their expertise in emissions inventories, thereby enhancing their ability to report at the same time as driving improvements in air quality. This has resulted in a stable and high rate of reporting emission inventories by Parties to the Convention during the last five years.

Due to the global scale of the air pollution problem and because air pollutants can travel thousands of kilometres from their emission source, Parties to the Convention have also recognized that stronger cooperation with countries from outside the UNECE region is needed. The Convention will therefore launch a Global Forum for Cooperation at its 40th Anniversary Special High-Level Session, which will take place in December 2019. This will be an opportunity to further strengthen the national-regional-global linkages to tackle air pollution.