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Statement

Mayors urge local action on air quality monitoring

Statement by eight Partnership for Healthy Cities mayors urging local governments to take action as world leaders convene at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“We stand committed to breaking the destructive cycle of climate change and air pollution and its disastrous effects on public health”

December 6, 2023—“According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to public health globally, claiming seven million lives annually, primarily due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Cities are bearing the brunt, so as mayors, we are in a race against time: With urban populations increasing rapidly, every year more children are growing up breathing toxic air. We cannot afford to delay putting systems in place that reliably monitor pollutants in our air—and harness this data to inform public health policy.

“The size of our populations and our proximity to the challenges mean cities hold tremendous potential to enact change. We can also lead by example. That is why, as world leaders gather at COP28, we call on cities around the world to adopt effective air monitoring programs and use data to promote public health actions that improve the lives of their citizens.

“It is our responsibility as leaders to engage our communities in this process and to speak transparently, ensuring urban air quality data is public and readily available. Access to air pollution data allows our cities to calculate the burden and health impacts posed by different levels of exposure. More importantly, it allows us to act. Using these data, we can implement precise and efficient solutions that target populations that are most affected—and save lives.

“We stand committed to breaking the destructive cycle of climate change and air pollution and its disastrous effects on public health in urban centers. As part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities, we are working to prevent NCDs and create healthier, safer, more resilient and more equitable cities.”

Signatories

Mayor Md. Atiqul Islam, Dhaka North, Bangladesh. The city is strengthening its air quality surveillance by installing a network of low-cost sensors to better inform public health policy.

Mayor José Sarto, Fortaleza, Brazil. The city issued a decree to guarantee the monitoring of local pollutants in order to estimate their impact on residents’ health and installed low-cost sensors to improve data collection.

Governor Heru Budi Hartono, Jakarta, Indonesia. The city launched a public awareness campaign using air quality data to help highlight the linkages between air quality and public health outcomes.

Mayor Balen Shah, Kathmandu, Nepal. The city is rolling out a new project aimed at strengthening the city’s air quality monitoring network to inform policy throughout the metropolitan area.

Mayor Nicușor Dan, Bucharest, Romania. A new online air quality monitoring dashboard went live in September 2023, tracking data from 44 sensors placed throughout the city.

Mayor Pudence Rubingisa, Kigali, Rwanda. The city is planning to assess the impact of the existing Car Free Day and Car Free zones on local air quality to inform the formulation of air-quality-related policies.

Mayor Erias Lukwago, Kampala, Uganda. The city is reviewing available evidence on the relationship between air pollution and local rates of air-pollution-related health events, while doing public outreach on the specific causes of such events.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Chicago, United States. The city is funding environmental justice communities to help the city develop a monitoring strategy that will improve understanding of air quality variations by neighborhood, with a focus on heavy-duty vehicle emissions.

Air quality and noncommunicable diseases

Air pollution is the second leading cause of noncommunicable disease (NCD) deaths, after tobacco. NCDs associated with air pollution include heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost the entire global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits. Citizens in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected—some 89% of premature deaths occur in these areas.

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