This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
Air pollution: Seven million die each year from ‘silent’ killer
Each day more than six billion people, one-third of them children inhale air so polluted that it puts their lives, health and well-being at risk, a UN expert on human rights and the environment said on Monday.
David Boyd described air pollution, both in and outside the home, as a “silent killer”, responsible for the premature death of seven million people each year, including 600,000 children.
He stressed that failing to ensure clean air constitutes a violation of the fundamental right to a healthy environment, a right that is legally recognized by 155 States.
Noting that “air pollutants are everywhere,” he urged all States to recognize that right.
While air pollution is “largely caused by burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and heating,” it also comes from industrial activities, poor waste management and agricultural practices, said the independent expert.
Growing global commitment to tackle climate issues: UN environment chief
Staying with the environment, the acting chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Joyce Msuya, said on Monday that although “2018 was a challenging year”, there was a growing global commitment to tackle the tasks ahead.
The UN agency’s new annual report, released online ahead of the UN Environment Assembly, which will be take place in Kenya from 11 to 15 March, shows that the pace of action on many interlinked environmental issues is accelerating.
The report highlights UNEP’s impact over the past year, from making the cooling industry more climate-friendly to training authorities to better enforce environmental laws.
“Our role in highlighting best practices, advocating action and bringing together governments, civil society and businesses once again proved critical,” Ms. Msuya said.
UN housing rights expert urges States to own up to homelessness scourge
Turning to human rights, States cannot call themselves rights leaders while leaving increasing numbers of their residents to live and die on the street, a United Nations rights expert said on Monday.
Leilani Farha, the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing said that Governments must be held accountable.
In a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she spelled out that “the time for excuses, justifications and looking the other way…has long passed”.
In the report, she suggests that the global housing predicament is rooted in a crisis over access to justice.
Without that, she said, “housing is not properly recognized, understood or addressed as a human right.”
“As long as States deny access to justice for the right to housing”, the Special Rapporteur explained, they perpetuate an unfair “hierarchy of human rights,” exposing discriminatory positions that some rights, and thus some rights holders, “matter more than others.”
Liz Scaffidi, United Nations.