Ground-breaking clean air protocol to guard human health and the planet, enters into force

UN Photo/Kibae Park Emissions at a manufacturing complex in Toronto, Canada. (file)

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


European and North American countries will take a major stride in cleaning up the atmosphere next Monday, 7 October, through the implementation of an amended legally binding treaty to limit the amount of emissions polluting the air.

With 18 countries and the European Union now having ratified the amended treaty, from a total of 51 who have signed, including many of the countries which are part of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the official entry into force marks an important step to curb pollutants closely-linked to climate change, ecosystem degeneration, and potentially life-threatening human health.

The Gothenburg Protocol, established back in 1999, sets forth legally-binding emissions reduction commitments for 2020 and beyond, for major air pollutants, and is rooted in the UNECE’s 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), originally intended to stop the occurrence of acid rain.

Beyond targeting well-known air pollutants, the Protocol was updated in 2012 to include reduction of fine particulate matter, pollutants shown to cause devastating climate change effects over short periods of time.

7 million premature deaths per year

UN experts have deemed air pollution a human rights violation – a deadly, man-made problem responsible for some seven million premature deaths, every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The agency has said toxic air is “the world’s largest single environmental health risk” and a leading cause of death by cancer.

The Protocol sets emission ceilings for major polluters: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5), shown to damage human health.

The compounds are released from various household and ambient sources; from motor fuel combustion, to heat and power generation, to cooking and heating fuels; having lasting health effects even with only mild exposure.

Of the pollutants the Protocol aims to target, Particulate Matter, NOx and (SO2), show the strongest evidence of causing harm, WHO found.

Smoke poses the most serious threat to humans, as a pollutant composed of fine particles that can enter the lungs, travel through the bloodstream and penetrate vital organs.

Approximately 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using polluting fuels, and around 3.8 million die each year from exposure to air pollution., WHO says.

Slashing levels of particulate matter, specifically a component known as black carbon, could also help in the fight against climate change. Scientists have found that black carbon, which has light-absorbing properties, remains in the atmosphere for little time, yet has drastically darkened snow and ice in the Artic region, thereby contributing to regional warming.

40 years – clean air

As parties break new ground in clean air policy, additional UNECE Member States are expected to ratify the Protocol in coming months.

The 1979 LRTAP Convention will see 40 years since its inception in December, growing from 32 countries to now 51 Parties, and giving birth to eight protocols which have set emission reduction commitments through the decades, including Gothenburg.

UNECE has recognized that the LRTAP and its protocols have reached achievements that are “unparalleled”, from decoupling emissions and economic growth, cutting back certain air pollutants by 40 to 80 per cent, recovering forest soils from acidification, and avoiding some 600,000 premature deaths per year.

In another bid to protect human health and the environment this week, a group of more than 100 scientific experts have advised the elimination of a new group of hazardous chemicals, during the 15th meeting of the Stockholm Pollutant Review Committee (POPRC-15).

The compounds Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and its salts, which are widely used in a number of consumer goods from carpets to clothing and leather, have shown to be detrimental to the human nervous system, brain development and endocrine system and thyroid hormone.

A follow-up 2020 meeting will further review impacts of two additional hazardous chemicals, Dechlorane Plus and Methoxychlor, taking into account the substances’ toxic impact on humans and wildlife, which would lead action toward their elimination, or reduction in production and use.

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

A staggering one-in-three women, experience physical, sexual abuse

Eurozone retail sales fall shows recession

Member States and Commission to work together to boost artificial intelligence “made in Europe”

The 28 EU leaders don’t touch the thorny issues

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

This start-up has developed a way for businesses to quickly compost food waste

EU seems to fail its moderate migration promises postponing them for end 2015

Globalization is changing. Here’s how your business can adapt

11 innovations protecting life below water – and above it

6 ways to future-proof universities

In 2019, ‘reasons for hope’ in a world still on ‘red alert’: UN chief Guterres

How to make your business thrive by doing good

North Korean families facing deep ‘hunger crisis’ after worst harvest in 10 years, UN food assessment shows

A day in the life of a Rohingya refugee

Human rights ‘core to sustainable development’: deputy UN chief

It will take a lot more than free menstrual pads to end period poverty

Rule of law: MEPs travel to Malta to meet with government, NGOs and journalists

Does research make sense any more? The dire need for new ways to measure success

In Rome you can swap plastic bottles for metro tickets

Latest Coronavirus (Covid-19) briefing from the World Health Organisation – key takeaways

Why good cybersecurity in business is everyone’s responsibility

Google’s hot summer never ends: EC to launch ANOTHER antitrust inquiry against the American giant

Supply chains have been upended. Here’s how to make them more resilient

One Day in Beijing

European Youth Forum celebrates 20 years of fighting for youth rights

Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets

How to save the world’s forests with carbon credits

Why Obama asks approval from Congress to bomb Syria?

A money laundering case on Vatican Bank’s road to renovation

Reject passivity and embrace ‘responsibility for our future,’ Lithuania’s President tells UN Assembly

Rapid growth in China post-COVID makes it ripe for investment

The European Parliament wants to stay in one place

A day in the life of a Venezuelan migrant in Boa Vista, Brazil

EU food watchdog: more transparency, better risk prevention

Destroying nuclear waste to create clean energy? It can be done

The European Union and the United States reach an agreement on imports of hormone-free beef

Preparing for developing countries the ‘Greek cure’

Iran: BBC and other broadcast journalists harassed; families threatened – UN experts

Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

Coronavirus: Commission holds first meeting of EU COVID-19 national scientific advice platform

The European Parliament floating over the South China Sea

Turkey presents a new strategy for EU accession but foreign policy could be the lucky card

European Border and Coast Guard: Council adopts revised regulation

UN urges ‘restraint’ in Bangladesh’s post-presidential election violence

10 reasons why today’s cyber leaders are tomorrow’s world leaders

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

Around 23 million boys have married before reaching 15; ‘we can end this violation’ says UNICEF chief

Humanitarian aid: EU allocates €54.5 million to Africa’s Great Lakes region

Ending use of chemical weapons in Syria: ‘still work to be done’, says UN disarmament chief

Can cybersecurity offer value for money?

These are India’s cleanest cities

COVID-19 vaccine campaigns: how far are the anti-vaccine movements going online? How can pro-vaxxers be part of their change?

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

Health challenges need predictable healthcare investment policies. Japan’s example shows why

These airports are now opening their doors to non-fliers

3 pressing urban problems Indian cities must solve in the post-COVID recovery

Electronic cigarettes: is it really a safe alternative to smoking?

Cutting money transfer fees could unlock $15bn for developing countries. Here’s how

Cape Town almost ran out of water. Here’s how it averted the crisis

The world’s supercomputers joined forces against COVID-19 – why such collaborations are critical for tackling future emergencies

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