Director-General's Office

Closing address at High-Level Action Day, First WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General

WHO HQ, Geneva
1 November 2018

Every human being is entitled to breathe clean air. It’s a human right. We are honoured to have the Human Rights High Commissioner, Former President Michelle Bachelet, supporting the WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.

Together we can make it a reality for everyone to breathe life. We also discussed the MOU we signed recently. We discussed how to move on in translating the MOU into action and there will be many things that we will do together.

One is health for all, health as a human rights issue in general.

So now to the pledging.

Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you. Thank you so much.

What I have seen and heard this afternoon is nothing short of inspirational. The commitments you have made will change the lives of billions of people.

Our dream is a world free of air pollution. To get there, I believe we need to set an aspirational goal to reduce the number of deaths from air pollution by two-thirds by 2030. We are eager to hear the views of countries and partners on this target, and we need to do more work together on the scientific foundation for it.

Let me give you five ways in which WHO will work towards achieving that target.

The first is ensuring clean energy in health facilities everywhere.

Access to reliable and clean energy and on-site renewable energy generation in health facilities is essential to achieving the goal of universal health coverage.

WHO is committed to working towards universal electrification of health facilities with sustainable energy by 2030.

The second is that WHO will also continue to have a leading role in the energy transition to protect health, environment and climate and ensure health care delivery.

We plan to establish a new multi-stakeholder Global Energy-Health Platform of Action to achieve SDG 3 on health and SDG 7 on energy, starting with a focus on clean cooking.

The third way is to harness the power of health workers to be agents of change.

Health workers are the ones who see the consequences of air pollution first-hand.

We are committed to equipping them with the capacity and tools to educate their patients and decision-makers about the health effects of air pollution, and to have their say in shaping policies to reduce it.

Fourth, WHO needs to scale up its Air Pollution programme.

To strengthen countries´ capacity to address air pollution and related health risks, we need increased human and financial resources to support the WHO Global Platform on Air pollution and Health.

Our ambition, together as partners is to establish a Trust fund on climate, environment and health, which could access climate and environment finance directly.

Fifth, we need strong institutional mechanisms.

WHO will explore how to use its influence to establish or reinforce new international mechanisms for air pollution control in order to protect people’s health.

Clean energy in health facilities. Political leadership. Harnessing the power of health workers. Expanding our air pollution programme. Strong international mechanisms.

These are the five strategies we will use to achieve a two-thirds reduction in global mortality from air pollution by 2030.

Then, as Gina summarized earlier, mobilizing political commitment is important. Political intervention is surgical intervention. Without political intervention I don’t think we can make palpable progress.

That’s why the last three days, I think the participants of this conference are saying “we are ready for an air quality convention”. That kind of political commitment would help speed up to achieve the goal of reducing mortality by two thirds.

Thank you once again for your commitment and partnership. I hope we will take the air quality convention together to its destination, and through that achieving the reduction of mortality by two thirds.

Together we can create a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you so much.