World commits Sh1.9tr to anti-pollution initiative

George Kebaso @Morarak

Up to 1.5 billion people in the world will breathe clean air and close to 500,000 kilometres, an estimated 30 per cent of the earth’s coastlines, be cleaned up if every promise made in last week’s United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) summit is met.

At the close of the world’s biggest environment meeting, it was also estimated that $18.6 billion (Sh1.9 trillion) will be available for research, development and innovative programmes to combat pollution if every country represented at the forum fulfill their pledge.

Improve lives In a landmark declaration in Nairobi on Thursday—backed by strong political support — the world committed to a pollution-free planet, promising to improve the lives of billions across the globe by cleaning up the air, land and water.

In 2015, nearly one in six deaths, an estimated nine million worldwide, was related to pollution in some form – air, water, soil, chemical or work-related pollution, according to a new report published by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. The report was shared at the Assembly last week.

Air pollution is by far the largest contributor to early death, the report linking it to 6.5 million fatalities in 2015. Water pollution, responsible for 1.8 million deaths, and workplace-related pollution, which led to 0.8 million deaths, pose the next largest risks, the report noted.

The overwhelming majority of pollution-related casualties – about 92 per cent – occur among people living in low- and middle-income countries. And, one in every four early deaths in nations trying to industrialise rapidly – such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya – could be connected to filthy air, water, soil or other contamination.

“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Dr Edgar Gutiérrez, Costa Rica minister of Environment and Energy and the President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.

He said with the promises made at the end of three days of intensive talks, the world was sending a powerful message that science would be relied upon heavily to help change the way people consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe.

More than 4,000 delegates including Heads of State, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Gigiri which also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions that were under discussion during the meeting.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Guyana and Trinidad &Tobago counterparts, David Granger and Anthony Thomas Aquinas respectively addressed the forum’s highest segment on Tuesday.

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