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Suspense as Lagos recognises clean air as human right

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
21 May 2022   |   3:55 am
Lagos and nine other African cities have signed a declaration recognising clean air as human right.

Lagos and nine other African cities have signed a declaration recognising clean air as human right.

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

A statement obtained yesterday from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group noted that Governor Babajide Sanwu-Olu recognised that breathing clean air was a human right and has committed to work toward safer air quality.

The statement explained that 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 was more important than the licence to pollute it.

“Lagos has committed to improve 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 development would to help the cities to save $9.4 billion yearly from averted deaths and hospitalisations, 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, Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, 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 that are on the frontline facing the worst consequences of climate change.

Khan said: “This is why I am focusing 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 world’s fastest growing cities were in Africa, adding 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, the statement added, were expected to put the cities on a path towards meeting WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines for particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide.