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To increase awareness and speed up action on tackling air pollution, HEAL participated in the Clean Air Forum that was organised by the European Commission in Paris earlier this month.

The two-day forum, which was organised by the European Commission, brought together experts, politicians, NGOs, industry and agriculture representatives and saw a fruitful exchange on the science on health effects of air pollution, as well as measures and actions to reach clean air in Europe’s cities. The exchanges were built around four panel discussions: the challenge that we face; clean air in cities; agriculture and air quality; business opportunities; and a closing debate. HEAL’s Anne Stauffer participated in the first panel and urged EU member states for greater political will on clean air.

The Forum was opened by Karmenu Vella (European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Anne Hidalgo (Mayor of Paris, France). Both stressed the need for an integrated approach to tackle the problem of air pollution from all angles, and the importance of action on city level as part of the solution.

The much-needed voice of the health community was further articulated by Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization (WHO). She shared the data from the WHO’s report – stating that air pollution causes 6,5 mln premature deaths every year, making it the biggest single environmental threat for public health. She stressed the 3 areas that needs fast and deep changes to improve air quality and health: transport and mobility, fossil fuels use and urban planning.

Another strong scientific voice was added by Richard Fuller, Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. He presented the findings of the two newest Lancet’s reports on health and climate change and pollution and health. He spoke not only about environmental causes of deaths (among which air pollution is the biggest one) but also about health threats of climate change and external health costs that are caused by these environmental factors.

HEAL’s Anne Stauffer participated in a panel debate on the challenges to action on better air quality. She stressed how air pollution is a particular threat to those most vulnerable, and urged for greater commitment to achieve clean air in Europe’s cities.

We are especially concerned about the latest science showing harm from polluted air for children, even before they are born. Clean air in Europe has been a goal for decades, but action has been lacking. While many cities have now initiated measures, national governments have weakened more ambitious measures in recent agreements to cut emissions. EU member states need to stop their blocking attitude.” Anne Stauffer concluded.

Find out more about the Clean Air Forum online.

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