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BreatheLife: A Global UN Campaign to support City action on Air Pollution

Sonia Bindra



Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Multifunction Hall: ONE UN Room
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Polish, Spanish, English, French + CART [English]
Equitable urban futures
UN 7


Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. People everywhere in the world are exposed to polluted air (99% of the global population breathe air that exceeds WHO air quality guidelines). Those in low- and middle-income countries suffer from the highest exposure. The burden on health is undeniable. Every year, 7 million people die prematurely from exposure to outdoor and household air pollution. Reducing air pollution will lead to a reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. Air pollutants and their sources are also fueling the climate crisis and actions to improve air quality can help reduce the impacts of climate change on health and the environment. WHO’s newly updated Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) set goals to protect millions of lives from air pollution. The event will provide an overview of what’s new in the AQG and discuss the importance of meeting these guidelines and how the AQG can be used as an evidence-informed tool, to stimulate research, and support climate action. Numerous UN Agencies, WHO, UNEP, UNICEF and World Bank, have joined forces behind BreatheLife, a global campaign to help cities, regions, and countries raise awareness and reduce air pollution. BreatheLife combines public health and climate change expertise with guidance on implementing air pollution solutions. This event will highlight the strengths behind a coordinated One UN approach to improving air quality to achieve health, climate, and sustainable development goals. The event will also provide an overview of BreatheLife, its achievements so far, and goals to 2030. It will discuss what actions are needed to improve air quality, as outlined in the AQG, and BreatheLife can drive needed action. Panelists will also discuss how BreatheLife can provide support to reduce air pollution in local regions, the role and support available from different UN Agencies, and how it can achieve both local, national and global priorities.


Promote the BreatheLife campaign and encourage local government commitment and action to reduce air pollution by joining the BreatheLife network. The event will provide guidance on how cities can join BreatheLife and the commitments, expectations, and reporting of the campaign. Provide information on the updated WHO air quality guidelines, what it means to current air quality commitments, and provide information on UN support to Member States to implement the guidelines. Increase awareness of various UN based clean air initiatives to support the transition to non-polluting technologies, including: - data driven policies and guidelines that can be adopted at low cost, support cutting emissions and are instrumental in tackling short lived climate pollutants like methane. - initiatives and programs being run by UN agencies like UNEP’s Cities Unit work, vehicle electrification program, energy transition, waste management initiative, and work on air quality monitoring [check on]. And WHO’s Urban Health Initiative, etc. Connect local efforts with global goals like the SDGs, Paris Climate Agreement, and the Global Methane Pledge. Increase the sharing of best practices, policies, guidelines, and tools that have led to improved air quality throughout the BreatheLife network.

Session speakers

Ms. Martina Otto
Head of Climate and Clean Air Coalition
Mr. Abraham Thiga Mwaura
Project Officer
Ms. Sean Khan
Prorgamme Officer, Global Environment Monitoring System for Air