UN environmental chief calls for new partnerships to clear African urban smog

26 July 2006

As the increasingly unbreathable atmosphere of cities in sub-Saharan Africa emerges as a key threat to the health, environment, economy and quality of life of millions of people, the head of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) today called for new partnerships to clear the air.

As the increasingly unbreathable atmosphere of cities in sub-Saharan Africa emerges as a key threat to the health, environment, economy and quality of life of millions of people, the head of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) today called for new partnerships to clear the air.

“Africa’s urbanization is the highest in the world and this, alongside a rise in the number of vehicles, are among the factors that are leading to a decline in air quality with all the health problems this entails,” Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP said as a conference entitled Better Air Quality for African Cities kicked off today at the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi.

Calling the effort to phase out leaded petrol in the region a partnership that has worked and a promise of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 that has been fulfilled, Mr. Steiner called for further commitments through various partnerships.

“Let us begin to make some more promises and to meet these too,” he said, noting that there was already a promise to tackle the high level of sulphur in Africa’s transport fuels that contribute to particle pollution. “Let us forge ones on other vehicle-related pollutants and make ones to end the appalling illness and death rates linked with indoor air pollution,” he added.

To achieve these goals, Mr. Steiner maintained that new and wider partnerships must be developed, bringing together fuel and car companies with town planners, urban managers and the full spectrum of civil society. Such partnerships should include environment ministers, but also the ones responsible for health, energy, transport and finance, he said.

Along with UNEP, the lead agency in the phase-out of leaded fuel, the four-day conference is jointly organized by the World Bank’s Clean Air Initiative for Africa (CAI-Africa), the Air Pollution Information Network for Africa (APINA), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

 

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