8 million deaths occur each year, as a consequence of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Air pollution is among the leading avoidable causes of disease and death globally. It is the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is a problem that affects countries from all regions. During our first discussion of the issue at the board meeting in May 2014, there was a wide, strong and uequivocal support among member states for the need to address this issue, something our discussion here today has confirmed.
We think this needs to be recalled as the basis for the resolution that we are currently negotiating – the enormity of the health consequences, the fact that they affect every nation and every region and the level of commitment that exists among member states, dictates that we develop a text that sends a strong message that we as states agree on the basis of the problem and on the nature of the measures that are needed, that increases the WHOs capacities in this field and that gives the DG a strong mandate to actively develop the international response to air pollution. That is the aim we should be setting ourselves. We would like to thank everyone who have contributed to the drafting process so far, and will continue working to ensure a strong resolution.
While there have been many international initiatives aimed at addressing environmental degradation, the engagement by the WHO and other international organisations entrusted with a responsibility for our health has been relatively modest. However, as with any health risk factor – be they viruses, bacterias or, as in this case, air pollutants, we know that international cooperation and assistance may be hugely beneficial if we are to achieve the fullest attainment of health for our populations.
It is high time to accelerate efforts, and mount a response which properly reflects the negative health impacts of air pollution, including its significant contribution to the global burden of disease. Greater engagement is needed, both by the Member States and the WHO. With the resolution we are intending to present at the World Health Assembly, we hope to see a clear call for action, including a request for the WHO to significantly scale-up its capacity at all three levels of the organization to provide normative guidance and technical support to Member States, and to increase its collaboration with other relevant partners.
In closing, let me underline Norway’s commitment to further promoting this agenda. In 2014, we contributed NOK 15 million (approximately USD 2 million) to the WHO’s work on climate change, air pollution and health. We commit to continuing and significantly increase this contribution this year .