Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and representatives of civil society are meeting at the third UN Environment Assembly to tackle the global menace of pollution. Environmental degradation accounts for nearly one in four of all deaths.
The three-day assembly, which opened on Monday at UN Environment’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, brings together governments, entrepreneurs, activists and others to commit to concerted global action on pollution.
“Our collective goal must be to embrace ways to reduce pollution drastically,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 assembly. “Only through stronger collective action, beginning in Nairobi this week, can we start cleaning up the planet globally and save countless lives.”
According to a new UN Environment report, everyone on earth is affected by pollution. Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems.
Air pollution is the number one environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year, while exposure to lead in paints is responsible for causing brain damage to 600,000 children annually. Water and soil pollution are also key focus areas, as is ocean pollution.
Pollution comes with a hefty price tag. A newly published report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over $4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.
“Given the grim statistics on how we are poisoning ourselves and our planet, bold decisions from the UN Environment Assembly are critical,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim. “That is as true for threats like pollution as it is for climate change and the many other environmental threats we face.”
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