Sunday 17th November 2019
Sunday, 17th of November 2019
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35 cities unite to clean the air their citizens breathe

No fewer than 35 mayors have pledged to deliver clean air for the more than 140 million people that live in their cities.

China pollution
Air pollution in China

By signing the “C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration”, the mayors recognise that breathing clean air is a human right and commit to work together to form an unparalleled global coalition for clean air.

The pledge unveiled on Friday, October 11, 2019 at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen commits cities to set ambitious pollution reduction targets and implement substantive clean air policies by 2025. By publicly reporting on their progress, the cities plan to generate a ‘race to the top’ in cleaning the air in the world’s big cities.

The cities that signed the “C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration” are: Amman, Austin, Bengaluru, Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dubai, Durban (eThekwini), Guadalajara, Heidelberg, Houston, Jakarta and Los Angeles.

Others include Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Medellin, Mexico City, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quezon City, Quito, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington D.C.

Mayors, speaking at a press conference in Copenhagen, stated: “We know we need to tackle the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency. Both need swift, unprecedented and collective action to remove the pollution that is harming our health and warming our planet.”

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nine in 10 citizens around the world breathe dirty air, and seven million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Air pollution is said to be creating a global public health crisis — one that is rooted in social injustice. The poorest and most vulnerable communities are regarded as most affected by dirty, polluted air.

Through the “C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration”, mayors commit to using their power and influence to reduce air pollution and work towards meeting the WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines, implying cities will continually reduce their local emissions, and advocate for reductions in regional emissions, resulting in continuous declines in air pollution levels that move towards the WHO guidelines:

Signatories of the declaration pledge to:

  • Set ambitious pollution reduction targets within two years that meet or exceed national commitments, putting them on a path towards meeting WHO guidelines;
  • Implement substantive clean air policies by 2025 that address the unique causes of pollution in their cities; and
  • Publicly report progress on achieving these goals. 

It is estimated that if the 35 signatories reduce annual average PM2.5 levels to WHO guidelines (10 ug/m3) it could avoid 40,000 deaths each year.

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Mayors have a wide array of tools at their disposal for improving air quality, including expanding low- or zero-carbon public transport; creating zero-emissions zones; requiring and promoting cleaner fuels for heating and cooking; enhancing incentives and infrastructure to support walking and cycling, and establishing city-wide air quality monitoring.

However, they also recognise cities often do not have the ability to address all causes of pollution, and are calling upon nation states, businesses and all those who care about climate change and public health to match this commitment. The Declaration includes this message for all actors: “We will use all the powers at our disposal as mayors to tackle air pollution, and call on others responsible for the sources of air pollution that poison the air in our cities to match this commitment.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said: “Toxic air pollution is a global crisis, and as Mayors, it is our fundamental responsibility to protect the public from this invisible killer. That’s why, in London, we have launched the world’s first ultra-low emission zone, expanded our air quality monitoring network and taken ambitious steps to electrify and expand public transport. After the first four months of ULEZ more than 75 per cent of vehicles in central London now meet these tough standards. Cities are leading the efforts to tackle pollution with innovative solutions, and I’m pleased to join Mayors around the world in signing this declaration to help deliver clean air for all.”

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Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40, Anne Hidalgo, said: “Breathing clean air is a fundamental human right. The fossil fuel and combustion car industry are responsible for a global public health crisis. The commitments announced today by 35 pioneering mayors, clearly demonstrates that the era of toxic emissions that poison the air we all breathe is coming to an end. I won’t rest until all Parisians breathe clean air.”

“Citizens, young and old have a right to clean air! And we have an obligation to look at every opportunity to improve the air in our cities. Copenhagen fully supports the C40 Clean Air Declaration and the call for new initiatives, which can reduce air pollution.” said Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, and C40 Vice Chair.

“Our residents deserve to know that future generations will inherit a livable planet – and that our air, water, and natural resources will be protected and preserved,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Chair Elect Eric Garcetti. “C40 Cities are leading the global work to reduce emissions with bold, concrete actions to ensure our children and grandchildren can breathe clean, healthy air.” 

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