GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Christiana Figueres – the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – announced the launch of Every Breath Matters: a new campaign, spearheaded by a global group of clean air ‘champions’ who will be using their voices to raise awareness about the devastating health impacts of air pollution and push world leaders to take bold action that will clean up the air and protect the health of billions of people.
“It is unacceptable that in 2018, 7,000,000 people will die prematurely because of air pollution and that nine out of ten of us are breathing unsafe air and risking asthma, cancer, heart disease, strokes, early dementia and cognitive dysfunction – simply by inhaling,” said Figueres. “We’re going to do something about it.”
“We welcome the leadership from the Every Breath Matters initiative, which will bring new energy to the BreatheLife campaign and amplify the message that we need urgent action on air pollution”, said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “The solutions that we have identified at this historic conference require all sectors and new actors to join hands and pitch in to break barriers to scaling up so that people all around the world can breathe clean air and achieve the global goals for climate and sustainability.”
The Every Breath Matters campaign is a collaboration between the Berggruen Institute, and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which have come together to address this global challenge.
“The importance of the air that we breathe is not a political issue, it’s a human issue,” said Nicolas Berggruen. “We must work together across cultures and nations to protect it.”
In addition to Christiana Figueres, the new group of clean air ‘champions’ includes:
- Leonardo DiCaprio; actor and environmentalist
- Nicolas Berggruen; Chairman of the Berggruen Institute
- Tedros Adhanom; Director-General of the World Health Organization
- Arvind Kumar; Founder & Managing Trustee at Lung Care Foundation; Chairman, Centre for Chest Surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; and a partner of Health Care Without Harm
Additional leaders will be announced in the coming weeks, and will include mayors, governors, business leaders, health experts, artists, athletes, philanthropists and thought leaders from all over the world.
Figueres announced the Every Breath Matters campaign on the opening day of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first Global Conference on Health and Air Pollution in Geneva. The Conference also saw the launch of a new report from WHO, entitled Air Pollution and Child Health, Prescribing Clean Air – that found that over 600,000 children under the age of 15 are dying prematurely each year because they are breathing unsafe air.
The Every Breath Matters champions will be calling for action from global leaders that includes:
- Addressing the impact of coal on clean air. Coal is a public health emergency. More than 7,000,000 people die prematurely as a result of air pollution arising from the burning of coal for electricity and heat, and many millions more endure serious health implications. Coal burning is also the single largest contributor to mercury contamination in the environment. For this reason, the narrative that coal is good for poor and is a legitimate and desirable pathway to development is unacceptable.
- Addressing the impact of transportation on clean air. Transport is one of the main sources of air pollution, for which evidence of direct effects on mortality as well as on respiratory and cardiovascular disease is firmly established. Transport is also the fastest growing source of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to climate change. This is largely associated with diesel in cars but also includes heavy transportation, too. There is currently momentum to capitalize on here, with global cities exerting their citizens’ rights to clean air and promoting electric vehicles, public transportation and other solutions.
- Addressing the impact of burning biomass on clean air. Biomass burning including forests, crops, peat and other sources precipitates enormous health impacts around the world. This is particularly pronounced in Asia and Latin America but is an issue in most geographies. Further, burning biomass in the home for cooking is the cause of 3.4 million premature deaths annually – with women and children disproportionately affected.
About Every Breath Matters
Every Breath Matters is a global campaign, spearheaded by a group of influential leaders around the world – mayors, governors, business leaders, health experts, artists, athletes, philanthropists and thought leaders – who are stepping up, speaking out and demanding that world leaders clean up our air and protect our health. #EveryBreathMatters www.everybreathmatters.net
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About the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Through collaborative partnerships, we support innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. Our work is divided into six main program areas– Wildlands Conservation, Oceans Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Transforming California, and Innovative Solutions. https://www.leonardodicaprio.org
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About Berggruen Institute
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop ideas and shape political, economic and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, the Berggruen Institute brings together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to examine the changes sweeping across the world and to ensure humanity isn’t being lost in the mix. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, and strengthened the ballot initiative process in California. The Berggruen Institute partners with The Washington Post, to produce The WorldPost, an award-winning global media platform. Additionally, the $1 million Berggruen Prize is conferred by an independent jury and awarded annually to a thinker whose ideas are helping to shape human self-understanding and advance humankind. http://www.berggruen.org
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