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The Nordic countries call for action to improve air quality across the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region, 27.04 2016


Date: Apr 27, 2016

Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate (MR-MK)

Aware of the severe air pollution situation in the UNECE region and beyond, We, the Nordic countries, hereby reconfirm our commitment to work towards an improved air quality. 

Bad air quality is today the world’s top environmental cause of premature mortality, overtaking poor water quality and lack of sanitation. Air pollution is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma and cancer.

Air pollutants also cause significant damage to ecosystems, agricultural crops, materials and cultural heritage.

We note with concern that despite a decline in emission levels and the number of ”hot spots” close to industrial regions, long term risks for human health and the environment continue to exist in large parts of the UNECE region.

We also note that the economic costs to society are enormous. The total economic costs due to premature deaths in the UNECE region are estimated to around 1 trillion Euros (WHO 2015) and the costs of illness due to air pollution add 10% to this amount.  In half of the UNECE countries the total health costs due to air pollution are more than 10% of GDP (WHO 2015). The damage from air pollution to materials and cultural heritage in Europe only is estimated to be more than 2 billion Euros per year (CLRTAP ICP Materials). The costs of control are generally far less than the damage cost.  (EC Impact assessment)

A substantial part of the harmful substances are transboundary transported. Thus, international co-operation remains indispensable. The UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution provides a platform for mutual learning and finding solutions to common problems.  Ratification and implementation of the Conventions’ protocols offers a possibility to reduce health and environmental impacts in a more cost-effective way than with unilateral action only.

Recognizing the continued need to act to improve air quality, we welcome the ”Batumi Action for Cleaner Air”.

We, the Nordic countries, support the actions proposed as vital steps towards improving air quality within our countries and in the UNECE region. Common actions are beneficial not only for a single country but gives added value on a regional scale.

We, the Nordic countries, collectively commit to further develop cooperation through bilateral partnerships or multilateral activities in line with the work plan for the implementation of the Air Convention and its protocols, through the Nordic Council of Ministers.

This will also facilitate ratification and implementation of protocols to the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution, to reduce health and environmental impacts in a cost-effective way and as soon as possible, which is a priority to the Nordic Countries. We, The Nordic countries, invite all Parties to join us in the struggle for an improved air quality by taking action without delay.

Communique: Nordic focus on climate, clean air and purer seas
The Environment and Climate Ministers of the Nordic countries met on April 27, 2016 at Porvoo in Finland, chaired by the Finnish Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, Kimmo Tiilikainen, representing the Finnish chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The ministers focused on a number of issues, with special attention to the follow-up on the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 along with the planned Nordic commitment at the next conference, COP22. Other issues in focus were the upcoming United Nations Environmental Assembly, the UNECE conference on clean air and a common Nordic stance on tackling the challenges of microplastics and other plastic waste in the marine environment.