Millions of lives could be saved and one billion people living in Asia could be breathing clean air by 2030 if 25 simple and cost-effective measures are implemented, a new UN report said on Tuesday.
Currently, about four billion people — 92 per cent of Asia and the Pacific’s population — are exposed to levels of air pollution that pose a significant risk to their health.
The report titled “Air pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based solutions” was launched at the World Health Organisation’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health here.
It is the first comprehensive scientific assessment of the air pollution outlook in Asia and the Pacific and is a collaboration between the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment), the Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
The report details 25 policy and technological measures that will deliver benefits across sectors.
The analysis takes the region’s considerable diversity into account and groups the selected measures into three categories.
The first is conventional emission controls focusing on emissions that lead to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
This includes activities like increased emissions standards and controls on vehicles, power plants, and large and small-scale industry.
The second is next-stage air-quality measures for reducing emissions that lead to the formation of PM2.5.
This includes activities like reducing the burning of agricultural and municipal solid waste and preventing forest fires.
The third is measures contributing to development priority goals with benefits for air quality.
This includes activities like providing clean energy for households, improving public transport and promoting the use of electric vehicles.
According to the report, effectively implementing the 25 measures would result in a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide and a 45 per cent reduction in methane emissions, preventing up to a third of a degree Celsius in global warming.
Resulting reductions in ground-level ozone would reduce crop losses by 45 per cent for maize, rice, soy and wheat combined.
Approximately seven million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases.
Two-thirds of these deaths occur in the Asia-Pacific region. The reductions in outdoor air pollution from the 25 measures could reduce premature mortality in the region by one third, and help avoid about two million premature deaths from indoor air pollution.
“It is an unfortunate fact that breathing clean air, the most basic of human needs, has become a luxury in many parts of the world. But there are numerous tried and tested solutions that we can put in place now to solve this problem,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim said.
“Implementing these air quality measures is not only good for health and the environment, it can also boost innovation, job creation and economic growth.”
Implementing the 25 measures is projected to cost $300-$600 billion per year, only about five per cent of the projected annual GDP increase of $12 trillion.
In addition to delivering substantial benefits to human health, food production, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, a basket of co-benefits will accrue, including savings on pollution control.