With a premature death every five seconds, air pollution is violation of human rights, says UN expert

© UNICEF/Mungunkhishig Batbaatar Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, suffers from severe air pollution. (January 2018)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


An independent UN expert said on Monday that the failure of governments across the world to ensure clear air, constitutes a “violation of the rights to life, health and well-being, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment.”

Ahead of the 2019 World Environment Day on Wednesday, which has air pollution as its theme, David Boyd, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, called on states to take urgent action to improve air quality in order to fulfill their human rights obligations.

Air pollution is a deadly, man-made problem, responsible for the early deaths of some seven million people every year, around 600,000 of whom are children. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the world’s population breathe polluted air.

Every five seconds, somebody around the world dies prematurely as a result.

In a statement, Mr. Boyd said that uncontaminated air is a core component of the right to a healthy environment, together with clean water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, a non-toxic environment, healthy biodiversity and a safe climate.

“The right to a healthy environment is fundamental to human well-being and is legally recognized by over 150 States at the national and regional levels. It should be globally reaffirmed to ensure the enjoyment of this right by everyone, everywhere while upholding the human rights principles of universality and non-discrimination.”

Mr. Boyd described the efforts of China, host of this year’s World Environment Day, to tackle air pollution, as a “success story.” Although the Chinese capital, Beijing, has become synonymous with dirty air over the past few decades, a concerted effort by local and regional authorities has seen an improved situation in recent years, with the concentration of fine particulates – the tiny, invisible airborne particles that are largely responsible for deaths and illnesses from air pollution – falling by a third.

The UN expert reiterated his recommended measures for reducing air pollution, contained in a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March. These include monitoring air quality and impacts on human health; assessing sources of air pollution; establishing air quality legislation; and developing air quality action plans.

“In celebration of World Environment Day, I urge States to take bold action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change, and fulfill their human rights obligations,” the expert said.

World Environment Day, celebrated since 1974, is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment. It is organized around a theme that addresses a particularly pressing environmental concern.

In a video message released ahead of the Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that, as well as claiming millions of lives every year, and damaging children’s development, many air pollutants are also causing global warming. Mr. Guterres called climate change an “existential threat,” and pressed the international community to “tax pollution, not people” and stop building coal plants.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Agreement reached on new EU Solidarity Corps

UNIDO promotes post-harvest excellence for mangoes in the Mekong River Delta of Viet Nam

Making money from meeting the SDGs? An overarching approach to sustainable development.

GSMA & UNDP announce an ‘Impact Partnership’ Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals at MWC Barcelona 2021

Should Europe be afraid of the developing world?

Thai citizenship means ‘dream of a brighter future’ for cave rescue boys, says UN Refugee Agency

Parliament backs a modernised EU electoral law

COVID-19 has left many employees in the lurch. What’s next for the global workforce?

A Sting Exclusive: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum

The latest emoji are more inclusive – but who approves them?

MEPs debate Brexit and relations with China following EU spring summit

Natural gas: Parliament extends EU rules to pipelines from non-EU countries

ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly: strengthening the partnership

At last Britain considers a super-soft Brexit

Eurogroup president swallows statement on savings confiscation

Why India can show us how to achieve growth with purpose

This plastic drinks bottle is made from plants

Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek islands: committee debate

Victims of terrorism remembered

Five years on from ISIL ‘caliphate’ proclamation in Iraq, Security Council makes first-ever visit

Why we need both science and humanities for a Fourth Industrial Revolution education

This is why attractive cities do better economically

New UN report shows record number of children killed and maimed in conflict

Cape Town’s crisis shows us the real cost of water

Importance of teaching ethics in Brazilian Medical Schools

EU Solidarity Fund: Commission puts forward financial assistance worth €823 million for the Croatia earthquake, floods in Poland and the coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus: Commission proposes to activate fiscal framework’s general escape clause to respond to pandemic

‘Cataclysmic events’ in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, began ‘global push’ against nuclear weapons says Guterres, honouring victims

UN civil society conference to focus on sustainable solutions for challenges of urban life

Has the treacherous theory about the ‘French patient’ finally prevailed?

Cohesion Policy after 2020: preparing the future of EU investments in health

5 ways the world is rallying around Australia as bushfires rage

EU-US trade agreement talks to be affected by American bugs

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: UN Climate Chief Calls for Final Push to Meet Adaptation Fund Goal Very Close to Target

The EU Consumer Policy on the Digital Market: A Behavioral Economics View

Aung San Suu Kyi defends Myanmar from accusations of genocide, at top UN court

IMF’s Lagarde: Estimating Cyber Risk for the Financial Sector

From Graduation to professional career: has medicine, in Brazil, become more feminist?

“They are trying to make improvements, but of course they are quite slow for my generation”, Vice President of JADE Victor Soto on another Sting Exclusive

What the world can do to solve the Afghan refugee crisis

Why support for Latin America’s early tech hubs is vital for the region

What does leadership mean in an age of perpetual change?

Brexit: the Commission proposes the creation of a Brexit Adjustment Reserve

COVID-19 vaccination: MEPs call for EU and global solidarity

Recognize, celebrate and ‘stand in solidarity’ with persons with albinism

To Brexit or not to Brexit: British exceptionalism doesn’t allow any Obama telling Brits what to do

Draghi left alone with no hope of boosting EU growth as Merkel just focuses on next elections

Getting vaccinated should just be considered a human right?

Road safety: Data show improvements in 2018 but further concrete and swift actions are needed

How can we build a workforce for our digital future?

EU adopts €130 million support package for Syrian refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon

European Union and African Union sign partnership to scale up preparedness for health emergencies

How a start-up in India is pioneering a way to tackle the global e-waste problem

Resolving Israel-Palestinian conflict, ‘key to sustainable peace’ in the Middle East: Guterres

Smart cities are great but we also need smart villages

5 facts you should know about the world’s refugees

If we don’t protect the ocean, humanitarian disaster awaits

How COVID-19 and ‘work from anywhere’ can build the city of the future

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: