International seminar on air pollution and health

Oslo, Norad, 20 March 2014

"The fight against air pollution and short lived climate pollutants in developing countries is a priority area for Norway. We want to see more attention given to this issue internationally, including by the world’s health authorities, State Secretary Hans Brattskar said in his opening statement at an international seminar on air pollution and health in Oslo on 20 March 2014.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome all of you to this seminar on air pollution and health, especially our co-organizers who have come from Washington, Geneva and Paris - from the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the Climate and Clean Air Coaliton to Reduce short-lived climate pollutants. I would also like to welcome our guests from the UK, Germany and the World Meteorological organization.

The topic of today deserves the world’s attention, to a much higher degree than today: Over 6 million people die prematurely every year from diseases related to outdoor and indoor air pollution. This means that air pollution is one of the biggest causes of disease and death today, with numbers higher than for tobacco smoking. In south Asia, indoor air pollution is ranked as the leading risk factor for mortality. Most of the people at risk are children under five and women. We will hear more about this later from Maria Neira and Carlos Dora of the World Health Organization.

During this seminar, we will not only talk about the problems related to air pollution, but we will also address the solutions to these problems. The good news is that we know how to deal with the issue of air pollution. Helena Molin Valdes, the head of the CCAC secretariat, will tell us about the triple gain from action to reduce black carbon and other short lived climate pollutants: on health, climate change and food security. Zoubida Allaoua and Jostein Nygard from the World Bank will talk about the work of the Bank related to pollution and health, including a program they are developing.

Kristin Aunan from Cicero has done research on air pollution in China for several years, and she has been involved in the work of the WHO on indoor air quality guidelines. She will present her work, and explain how to achieve health and climate co-benefits in urban areas in developing countries.

The fight against air pollution and short lived climate pollutants in developing countries is a priority area for Norway. We want to see more attention given to this issue internationally, including by the world’s health authorities. We have taken an initiative with a group of countries to start preparing for a discussion and a resolution that we hope will be adopted by the World Health Assembly next year.

We need stronger global efforts, and stronger global commitments to concrete actions. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is such an initiative. It has the potential to foster concrete and scaled up actions on the ground to reduce emissions from short lived climate pollutants, by combining forces between the Coalition´s more than 80 Partners. It is an initiative where countries that are willing to take a lead pave the way for enhanced action.

Our Government will contribute to global efforts in reducing air pollution particularly in developing countries. We have contributed 12 million USD to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Trust Fund in 2012 and 2013 for action in developing countries with health benefits. And for 2014 we have allocated additional 8 million USD to reducing short lived climate pollutants in developing countries. We are in the process of assessing different channels. We also support reductions of black carbon in the Himalayas through the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development - ICIMOD.

People in developing countries, especially women and children, are the hardest hit by both climate change and air pollution. Our aim is that these efforts will both save lives and the climate!

We invite you to take active part in the seminar; please come with good ideas and proposals for the way ahead. This is an excellent example of a cross-cutting theme, where people from the health- and environment communities must stand together in the fight against air pollution. And we need to work closely with colleagues in many sectors of society, such as the transport, waste management, energy and industry sectors.

I wish you a fruitful seminar; and with that I am honored to introduce Zoubida Allaoua. She’s acting vice president of the World Bank, in charge of issues related to sustainable development. I am looking forward to your presentation and to learn more about your new programme to fight pollution and promote better health and a better environment.

Thank you.