image description

GAHP Blog

German Environment Minister Pledges Support For Commission On Pollution At ICCM4

Barbara Hendricks, Minister of Environment, Germany, was part of a panel of world leaders and international experts who gathered at ICCM4 in Geneva in September to help launch the Global Commission on Pollution, Health and Development.

The international support for the Commission has been tremendous.  We believe this might be the game-changer in the fight against toxic pollution–the largest cause of death in developing countries.

In her statement, Hendricks summarizes the many challenges, highlighting in particular the link between the environment and economic development, which is often overlooked:

… the adverse effects of pollution on health hinder or even render impossible any meaningful social and economic development. There are many examples for that. Not the least that it has become an increasing economic impediment that some cities have become totally unattractive for foreign investors and experts because of the level of pollution.

Environment Ministers have been preaching this fundamental link between environment and development ever since or even before the Rio Conference in 1992. But that message is still not sufficiently heard.

Pollution needs to be on everybody’s agenda who cares about public health and sustainable development – and not just on the agendas of the Environment Ministers of this world, like myself.

Drawing a comparison between the Commission Report, to be published next year, and the Stern Review, the Minister explains the potential for the report to awaken the world to the impact of toxic pollution. Listen to her make that point below:

Here is her full statement:

Many steps have been taken to strengthen sustainable development all over the globe in the last decades. Many successes have been achieved! But there is still a lot of unfinished business to be taken care of. That’s why the new Sustainable Development Goals are so important and so necessary. And I see the activities presented here today as part of the efforts to achieve these goals and to implement the Sustainable Development Agenda.

A lot of that unfinished business relates to the topic of pollution and health: Environmental exposures cause approximately a quarter of the deaths worldwide. This is a tremendous problem that is not yet sufficiently communicated – despite the efforts of the World Health Organization to bring more awareness to it.

And it was quite a fight to make sure that pollution and health is explicitly addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. When we tackle pollution – be it the lack of safe water and sanitation, be it the exposure to contaminated sites or the lack of clean air to breathe – we do not just protect human health and the environment.

We also very much contribute to economic development: Especially in developing countries, the adverse effects of pollution on health hinder or even render impossible any meaningful social and economic development. There are many examples for that. Not the least that it has become an increasing economic impediment that some cities have become totally unattractive for foreign investors and experts because of the level of pollution.

Environment Ministers have been preaching this fundamental link between environment and development ever since or even before the Rio Conference in 1992. But that message is still not sufficiently heard. Pollution needs to be on everybody’s agenda who cares about public health and sustainable development – and not just on the agendas of the Environment Ministers of this world, like myself.

I am glad that key institutions such as the World Bank are now preaching this fundamental message as well. But a lot more people, governments and institutions need to be convinced that environmental protection is not an add-on to economic development. It is a prerequisite.

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution is an ambassador of this message. GAHP has done a fantastic job to get this message across to people and institutions alike. This is why we enjoy working with GAHP and this is why – this year – my Ministry became a member of GAHP.

The role as an ambassador will be greatly amplified by the Commission on Pollution, Health and Development that GAHP initiated.

The Commission will generate numbers – numbers with Dollar signs or Euro signs attached. Numbers that will tell us what it costs in economic terms to pollute the environment and harm people’s health through pollution. Numbers that will tell us how unreasonable it is even in economic terms not to take care of the world we live in.

The Stern Report once pursued a similar goal. It taught us why we need to tackle climate change now and not later, because postponing action will translate in much higher costs in the end. The Stern Report had a huge effect and was widely discussed. Its effect was to a great extent due to the fact that it spoke in terms that economists understand. It used their logic and their lingo. And the key messages were easy to summarize and communicate to the general public.

I very much hope that the report of this new Commission will be equally successful. We need it to raise awareness. We need it to change minds. We need it to reach people that until now believe that environmental policy comes only second after investing into economic activities.

I am impressed by the panel of experts that GAHP has been able to win for this project. It is a perfect mixture of economists and medical experts, policy makers – past and present – and communicators. I am convinced this will work! And I am happy to say that my Ministry will be one of the financial supporters of this project.

I wish you the best of luck and very much look forward to the results of your important endeavor. Thank you very much for your attention!

Related:

Comments are closed.

Partnering to Solve Pollution Problems

Translate »