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GAHP Efforts Increase Pollution’s Visibility to G20 Leaders

In 2020, GAHP forged connections with G20 engagement groups to put the topic of pollution and health on an expanding array of global agendas. The results of these engagements are promising.

The latest evidence of this can be seen in the recommendations of the Saudi-lead T20 team to G20 leaders, just released at the G20 November summit. These recommendations establish strong precedence for investing in measures to mitigate and prevent the hazardous effects of pollution on human health, more specifically: 

  • PROPOSAL 1 reaffirms the significance of health as a global public good. T20 calls on the G20 to reinforce the importance of health, and to categorize funding for health as an investment and a critical driver for long-term global economic growth.
  • PROPOSAL 2 draws attention to early childhood education, care and development as essential for long-term sustainability and achievement of the SDGs.
  • PROPOSAL 3 Calls for the G20 to study how threats to global health could impact the economy and the health of the community at large.
  • PROPOSAL 23 calls for measures to bring ambient air pollution levels in the G20 countries to levels deemed by the WHO to be safe for human health and reduce deaths associated with COVID-19.
  • PROPOSAL 24 identifies pollution as a major threat to biodiversity and calls on the G20 to take regulatory and fiscal measures to mandate and incentivize the reduction of industrial and agricultural sources of pollution and the more efficient, safer use and storage of plastics and chemicals.
  • In addition, PROPOSAL 9 calls for the G20 to scale up multilateral stakeholder engagement and establish steering committees to tackle existing policy challenges that affect the global economy, such as public health, climate change, and global conflict. Pollution was not named specifically but clearly has impacts on all the identified areas.
These T20 recommendations to G20 reflect the growing awareness that:

  • Pollution is an issue that affects many areas of sustainable development and if not addressed, will certainly hinder the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Pollution is the largest environmental risk factor for premature death in the world today,  killing over nine million people each year (seven million of which are caused by air pollution), and that the costs are enormous — in the vicinity of 2% of GDP in low- and middle-income countries, which bear the brunt of pollution-related deaths. With the link between air pollution and worsening COVID-19 outcomes confirmed in studies, there is no doubt that the impacts of pollution, heath and economic growth are significant and worthy of attention by the G20.

While many of these recommendations target air pollution, they will also impact efforts to address lead pollution, which is another major cause of death and disability, especially in children. A recent report from GAHP member Pure Earth and UNICEF has revealed that one in three children globally have high levels of lead, causing neurological damage and permanent IQ loss, and leading to about one million premature deaths each year. High levels of lead also correlates closely to rates of violent crime, exposing another risk to public health. In some countries lead poisoning costs 2-4% of GDP, and exceeds the value of overseas development aid.

As Saudi Arabia gears up to transfer the G20 presidency torch to Italy, GAHP is well-poised and ready to continue to contribute and fight for pollution to gain the attention and response needed to protect the health and well-being of all.

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