The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in conjunction with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) on Monday launched the first assessment of air pollution and climate change in the African continent.
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, director and regional representative of the African office at UNEP, said the assessment will help deliver accurate and timely information to boost response to harmful effects of climate change and air pollution to the environment, human health and livelihoods.
“In the face of growing inequality on pollution, a significant burden of air pollution-related deaths occurs in Africa, yet we lack accurate timely information,” Koudenoukpo said in Nairobi during an event to mark the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.
She underscored the need to prioritize awareness creation alongside enhanced monitoring of negative impacts of air pollution in Africa.
Koudenoukpo said improved air quality combined with action on climate change is key to hastening green and inclusive growth in Africa.
Philip Osano, center director of Stockholm Environment Institute in Nairobi, said the assessment will determine how the continent’s development can be accelerated without harming ecosystems.
“It will focus on identifying coherent strategies that can give multiple air quality and climate benefits,” said Osano
He said that inadequate data combined with incoherent policies had undermined action on air pollution and climate change in Africa.
“The countries need this data to inform policies that can reduce air pollution and deliver national development priorities and climate goals,” said Osano.
He said the assessment will boost local knowledge and institutional capacity to enable governments to integrate and implement air pollution and climate change policies effectively.
Helena Molin Valdes, head of secretariat said that the assessment will help identify development priorities and actions that can reduce air pollution in the next decade.
She said the assessment will boost efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions in line with global commitments.
Alice Kaudia, one of the co-chairs guiding the assessment, noted that air pollution presents existential threat to livelihoods and ecosystems.
She said that millions of people in Africa die prematurely due to air pollution hence the urgency to combat the menace.
“In Africa, the situation is acute with the most vulnerable segment of Africa’s population – women and children – being at higher risk of susceptibility to chronic respiratory diseases because of exposure to indoor air pollution arising from the use of biomass fuels for cooking and paraffin for lighting,” said Kaudia.
She said the assessment aims to build on the existing community of practice among scientists and policymakers in order to boost response to climate change and air pollution in Africa.