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21st August 2023

100 days to COP28: open letter to President

With 100 days to COP28, we’ve joined with multiple organisations to urge the COP28 president to raise air pollution up the agenda.

The open letter, coordinated by Global Air Fund and signed by 47 NGOs, civil society organisations and health professionals, urges the president to deliver a transformative agenda and to take steps to reduce air pollution and deliver win-wins for climate, public health and economies.

Dear President-Designate Dr. Al Jaber,

With 100 days left until COP28 commences in the UAE, we write to you with a deep sense of urgency. We applaud your Presidency for spotlighting climate change’s health impacts by announcing the first-ever Health Day and health inter-ministerial meeting. However, this risks being an empty promise if the conference does not deliver substantive progress in tackling air pollution as the most tangible issue at the nexus of climate and health.

We already know the first Global Stocktake will be a devastating reality check, showing that countries are massively off track from their commitments to the Paris Agreement. For too long, COP and other international gatherings have failed to connect human and planetary health and to act on air pollution and its drivers. This inaction contributes to millions of premature deaths yearly, long and short-term health impacts and soaring economic costs.

We call on your Presidency to put air pollution firmly on the agenda and to catalyse national commitments and international funding to improve air quality.

Air pollution is a pervasive public health crisis and an accelerator of climate change. 99% of the world’s population breathes air that fails to meet WHO guidelines. The main drivers of air pollution are also sources of greenhouse gases, the largest culprit being the combustion of fossil fuels. This interconnectedness means that a full stop to burning fossil fuels is essential to unlock the enormous co-benefits of clean air. We emphasise that clean air cannot be solely achieved by carbon capture technologies, which do not address all toxic pollutants and particulates, such as black carbon which also accelerates warming. Only measures which result in better air quality will deliver the public health co-benefits of climate action.

The IPCC AR6 report highlights that clean air action will improve global public health to such a degree that it will pay for itself or even be cost-negative. It can save lives and reduce the burden of diseases on communities improving health and securing food systems. It will also improve population resilience to respiratory infections, which remain a major killer of young children.

To ensure a transformational COP that ‘supercharges solutions’ as you have pledged, it must deliver specific steps to reduce air pollution, as a way of tackling the climate emergency while delivering rapid win-wins for public health and economies. The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution identified the most effective interventions that improve both health, by reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and climate, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The top five interventions identified are all urgently necessary:

In addition, we call for comprehensive air quality monitoring to demonstrate progress towards WHO Air Quality Guideline levels and campaigns to demonstrate the benefits of clean air to health, families, and communities to further build public support for climate action.

Much like the climate crisis, air pollution also has disproportionate impacts on certain populations. Death rates from air pollution are highest in low- and middle-income countries. But as the climate, health and economic impacts of air pollution transcend international borders, it is incumbent for air quality to be integrated into global climate commitments and funding.

We call on you to ensure that air pollution and the co-benefits of cleaner air are recognised in the Global Stocktake, the Mitigation Work Programme, COP28 Cover Decision, and the Just Transition Work Programme. COP28 must deliver tangible progress to end all fossil fuel subsidies, as a way to unlock progress across the negotiations. We must redirect these vast sums, which currently inflict enormous damage on both climate and health, to accelerate mitigation actions and a just transition.

We, the undersigned, stand ready to help you deliver these actions and demonstrate the co-benefits of clean air and climate action.

Signed by:

  1. AfriqAir
  2. Air For Health, Bulgaria
  3. AirBG.Info – a Project by Code: Bulgaria
  4. AirQo
  5. Association for the Promotion of Youth Leadership, Advocacy and Volunteerism Cameroon (APYLAV)
  6. Asthma + Lung UK
  7. Clean Air Asia
  8. Clean Air Fund
  9. Clean Air One Atmosphere
  10. Climate Mental Health Network
  11. EuroHealthNet
  12. European Lung Foundation
  13. European Respiratory Society
  14. EV Klub Polska
  15. Forum for the Future
  16. Gaurab Basu, MD, MPH, Director of Education & Policy, Harvard Chan C- CHANGE
  17. Global Black Maternal Health
  18. Global Climate and Health Alliance
  19. Global Health Visions
  20. Global Youth Strategy (GYS) on Air Pollution and Climate Health
  21. Health Care Without Harm
  22. Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation
  23. IKEA Foundation
  24. Impact on Urban Health
  25. Innovations and Access for Development Initiative (IADI)
  26. Institute for Health and Democracy, Poland
  27. International Youth Health Organization
  28. Irish Doctors for Environment
  29. Kari C. Nadeau, MD PhD, Chair, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard
  30. T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  31. Michał Kurtyka, President of COP 24
  32. MMBSHS Trust, India
  33. NCD Alliance
  34. OpenAQ
  35. Our Kids’ Climate
  36. Polish Alternative Fuels Association
  37. Ride for their Lives
  38. Road Safety Partnership, Poland
  39. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, UK
  40. Salud por Derecho, Spain
  41. Shareaction
  42. The Geneva Sustainability Centre
  43. UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
  44. UrbanBetter
  45. Vital Strategies
  46. West African Institute of Public Health
  47. World Heart Federation