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UN calls for strong anti-pollution legislation and enforcement

[JURIST] UN human rights experts are called [press release] on global leaders Friday to take urgent action on air pollution to ensure world citizens enjoy what the UN calls "the human rights to life and health in environments free from contamination." The experts stated that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) [official website], approximately seven million deaths are linked to exposure to air pollution [WHO backgrounder] every year. According to UNICEF [official website], 300 million children, roughly one in seven, live in environments that have outdoor air pollution levels that are six or more times higher than international guidelines [UNICEF report, PDF]. The UN stated that such high levels of global air pollution are due to an international lack of corporate accountability. To curb the issue, the UN is asking global leaders to enact strong anti-air pollution legislation and to enforce corporate accountability.

Air pollution and climate change is an international concern. Last week the European Commission gave final warnings [JURIST report] to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK for failing to address air pollution. In January UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes Baskut Tuncak said [JURIST report] that the UK must take steps to control exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals for all citizens but particularly children. In November a US judge ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit against the US government over failure to limit the emission of greenhouse gasses can proceed. That same month governments around the world agreed [JURIST report] to legally binding limits on global temperature rises as the Paris Agreement [text, PDF] on climate change became effective. One of the biggest hurdles to reaching an agreement was getting China and the US [JURIST report] to sign on, the two countries being the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, collectively responsible for about 40 percent of all gasses emitted.

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