Clean Air Designated Human Right in Addis Ababa, Nine Other African Cities

Addis Ababa and nine other African cities have signed a declaration recognizing clean air as a human right.

The air quality declaration called C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, made alongside Addis Ababa, Abidjan, Accra, Dakar, Ekurhuleni, Freetown, Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Tshwane, now made it a matter of necessity for the state to improve climate and health.

A statement obtained Friday from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group noted that the Governor of Lagos, Babajide Olusola Sanwu-Olu recognized that breathing clean air is a human right and commits to working toward safer air quality.

With the development, at least 59 million people across the African cities stand to benefit from cleaner air and improved health through commitments that are estimated to prevent as many as 10,000 early deaths linked to air pollution exposure.

Speaking on the development, Sanwu-Olu, stressed the need to breathe clean air, noting that it is more important than the licence to pollute it.

“Lagos has committed to improving air quality and I appeal to the responsibility of every citizen because together we can,” he said.

Also expected to halt more than 300,000 hospitalisations, the singular development is expected to help the cities save $9.4 billion yearly from averted deaths and hospitalizations, the group said.

“If Lagos reduces its PM2.5 concentration to 35 μg/m3 (World Health Organisation (WHO) Interim Target 3) by 2030, it could prevent 2,800 deaths and 155,000 hospitalisations per year. This would save $ 2.3 billion annually (from avoided deaths and hospitalisations).

“If Lagos reduces its NO2 concentration to 10ppb (WHO Air Quality Guideline), it would prevent 2,300 asthma incidences per year. This will save US$ 200 million annually in related healthcare costs,” the statement said.

With the declaration, Addis Ababa, Abidjan, Accra, Dakar, Ekurhuleni, Freetown, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi, and Tshwane have now joined a global cohort of 38 cities including Durban, which became the first African city to sign the declaration in 2019.

Chair of C40 Cities and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he would be determined to do more to support cities in the global south, which are on the frontline facing the worst consequences of climate change, the Guardian

Khan said: “This is why I am focussing C40’s resources on helping cities around the world accelerate their efforts to tackle the climate emergency, reduce toxic air pollution and address inequalities. The world is at a crossroads, we must all play our part in helping cities around the world become greener, fairer and more prosperous for all.”

UN Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, President of the C40 Board, and 108th Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg also stated that many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are in Africa and that the new declaration could help show cities everywhere how to protect public health, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity all at the same time.

“Cities play a vital role in the fight against climate change. This new commitment is an important step to help build momentum and highlight Africa’s leadership in the lead-up to COP27 in Egypt later this year,” he noted.

The statement noted that the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration sets a framework for cities around the world to improve air quality, adding that within two years, signatories to the declaration would establish baseline levels and set ambitious reduction targets for air pollutants that meet or exceed national commitments.

These targets are expected to put the cities on a path towards meeting World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines for particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulphur dioxide.

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