In a concerted effort to combat the pernicious threat of air pollution, the mayors of eight global cities - Kathmandu, Chicago, Bucharest, Fortaleza, Jakarta, Dhaka, Kigali, and Kampala - have pledged to enforce stringent measures. This resolution emerged from a virtual meeting conducted parallel to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-28) held in the United Arab Emirates. The cities are part of the Partnership for Healthy Cities global network, a collective striving for healthier urban environments.
Recognizing the Risks
Air pollution, declared by the World Health Organization as the greatest environmental threat to public health, is responsible for seven million premature deaths annually. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, primarily induced by air pollution, are the leading causes. There is no safe level of air pollution, even minimal exposure can lead to significant mortality risks.
Each mayor shared their city-specific initiatives to bolster air quality monitoring and reduce pollution, including deploying pollution measurement devices, enhancing public health policies, and fostering community awareness and responsibility. The leaders emphasized the pivotal role of local governments in strengthening air quality data monitoring as COP28 convened.
Global Challenges and Responses
While parts of the U.S. experienced a decline in air quality due to wildfires, leading to increased mortality rates, cities in China are grappling with the impact of climate change and air pollution on urban expansion and public health. San Francisco's Chinatown residents, for instance, faced health repercussions due to declining air quality from wildfires. The city responded by mitigating air quality concerns in single room occupancy buildings and supporting residents disproportionately impacted by climate change.
As the world faces persistent and dangerous heatwaves driven by carbon pollution, the need for resilient, proactive measures is clear. The climate emergency is a direct consequence of carbon-heavy land use, agriculture, transport, buildings, and industrial processes, and polluting energy sources. The efforts to accelerate the transformation of the buildings sector to achieve near-zero emissions and resilient buildings by 2030, and the use of artificial intelligence to tackle climate challenges, offer a glimmer of hope.
In conclusion, the commitment demonstrated by these eight cities serves as a beacon for others to follow. The battle against air pollution is not just about environmental conservation, but the preservation of human life itself. As these cities strive to better the lives of their citizens, they also set a precedent for global change.