UN: Managing air pollution is a human rights obligation
At the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, a UN-appointed expert stated that over six billion people regularly inhale air “so polluted that it puts their life, health and well-being at risk”. The report states that air pollution should be considered a human rights risk and shifting to renewables could save up to 150 million lives.
Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd stated that air pollution is “silent, sometimes invisible, prolific killer”. Boyd highlighted that access to a healthy environment is a legally recognised human right in 155 states, yes air pollution is not considered to be a factor in this. “Air pollutants are everywhere, largely caused by burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and heating, as well as from industrial activities, poor waste management and agricultural practices,” he said.
The report, titled “Issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment”, provides shocking statistics, highlighting that air pollution is responsible for the premature death of 7 million people each year. The report emphasised that these deaths are preventable if correct action is taken, outlining key measures that should be taken to clean up air pollution. Among these recommendations are a ban on new fossil fuel based energy plans, as well as the replacement of all existing plants by 2030. He also encouraged “support for the growth of distributed renewable energy generation systems”.
“Every hour, 800 people are dying, many after years of suffering, from cancer, respiratory illnesses or heart disease directly caused by breathing polluted air”, he said.