Air Quality is Key to Solving the Global Environmental & Sustainability Issue

In recent years, several environmental phenomena that took place turned out to be interconnected. Due to that the UNEP (UN Environment Programme) published their latest global report regarding air pollution that explains how improving air quality is the ultimate solution when it comes to putting a handle on the planet’s main trouble areas: climate change, pollution, waste, and biodiversity loss.

However, UNEP chief Inger Andersen mentions in the Global Assessment of Air Pollution Legislation (GAAPL) that despite all the rules and regulations that were put in place to combat air pollution, the air quality still continues to worsen.

The air quality legislation in almost 200 countries, including the European Union (EU), shows that even with the international movement of pollutants that are affecting the quality of air, it was only one-third of the countries that actually examined, placed legal mechanisms for supervising or tackling transboundary air pollution.

The Legal Measures That Should Be Taken
WHO (World Health Organization) created the Air Quality Guidelines, and through these guidelines the report mentions the legal measures that will help to verify if the air quality standards are being followed and what should be done if they aren’t.

Moreover, based on a study, 43% of countries do not have a legal definition when it comes to air pollution and 31% of them still have not incorporated the AAQS (Ambient Air Quality Standards). Also, 37% of States don’t legally need national air quality monitoring mechanisms, even though they are highly important when it comes to being aware of how air quality impacts national populations. Despite everything, air pollution doesn’t recognize borders. According to the analysis, only one-third of countries examined the situation, placed legal mechanisms for handling or tackling transboundary air pollution.

The Progress That Has Been Made So Far
Despite all the challenges that some countries had to face, the report also mentions the immense progress certain countries have made. According to the UN chief, this progress can be the stepping stone for improved air quality governance systems, which can be used to protect the well-being and health of the world’s population, while also addressing the other planetary crisis that’s out there.

Furthermore, several countries have now incorporated constitutional provisions, which allow for the formation of rights to clean air within the law. In many countries, having information regarding air quality is a right that has been well established. Also, in different countries, public interest litigation has started working on and improved air quality policies.

The Need for A Better Air Quality Governance
The report highlights the need for air quality governance and how critical it is when it comes to achieving air quality standards, including public health goals that can be fulfilled by creating legislation for air quality control. This legislation should incorporate accountability, transparency, enforceability, and participation of the public.

One of the main causes for the inadequate execution of the air quality laws is the lack of enforcement capacity, according to the UNEP chief. She further states that more effort should be placed to help other Member states when it comes to applying pollution reduction measures that are based on science-related policies and frameworks. All countries should work towards their ambition regarding mitigation and work on sustainability.

What Is Recommended
In order to improve air quality governance and assist countries in addressing air pollution effectively, the GAAPL has provided recommendations that can help with this situation. There is also guidance on how these countries can accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Moreover, the air quality commitments consist of a common legal framework for AAQS on a global level and important regional international legal instruments regarding air quality. The latter half is particularly for the EU since it requires each signatory country to form relatively strong legal systems of air quality control.

Furthermore, practical guidance has been created by UNEP with the help of the Montevideo Environmental Law Programme, so it can offer its support to other countries when it comes to addressing the air pollution issue. Also, the States will get direct technical support that includes developing and implementing the legal frameworks for air pollution, which also consists of complementary capacity-building for prosecutors, judges, and other enforcement officials.

The UNEP chief further stated that the air we get to breathe is a basic public good and all countries should do their part of keeping it clean and safe. Also, UNEP is dedicated to offering their assistance to other countries when it comes to working on the pollution crisis, so the health and well-being of everyone remain protected.