Pollution Free Earth

Towards a pollution-free Earth:

Pollution has significant impacts on human health, the environment, and even on how some of the Earth’s systems, such as the climate, are functioning. Pollution touches all parts of the planet. It is affecting our health through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way we use natural resources to support global production and consumption and which impact the environment.


What are the sources of pollution?

  • Air pollution: The use of solid fuels for cooking, burning of fossil fuels, wildfires, burning of waste, tobacco smoke, all contribute to air pollution. Nine out of ten people in the world are breathing air that is polluted beyond the World Health Organization (WHO) acceptable standards. 
  • Land and soil pollution: agricultural practices, improper irrigation, solid waste management problems such as industrial and municipal landfills, and a range of industrial, military and mining activities. 
  • Freshwater pollution: excess nutrients that come from the use of fertilizers in agriculture, pathogens from untreated waters, heavy metals from mining and industrial waste. Over 80 per cent of the world's wastewater is released to the environment without treatment. 
  • Marine and Coastal pollution: nutrients, waste and heavy metals from land sources, plastic debris as well as pollutants from the fishing, shipping and energy industries.


Impacts of pollution?

The hazard of a pollutant for human health and ecosystems is based on its chemical nature and its intrinsic toxicity, the risks are related to the quantities emitted, exposure concentrations and its persistence in the environment1. Ecosystem functions are put at risk as well as humans and individual species. Due to their general health status, potential higher exposures and reduced resilience to social, environmental and economic risks, pollution can have a particularly disproportionate and negative effect on the poor, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, some indigenous peoples, and vulnerable populations. 

Pollution has also significant economic costs from the point of view of health-care, 4.5 million premature deaths each year due to air pollution from fossil fuels. US $8 billion (3.3% of the world's total GDP) lost each day from reduced life expectancy, premature birth, illnesses that result in hospital visits and missed work, and financial burdens resulting from illnesses.

What actions can be taken to make the earth truly pollution-free?

  1. A global compact on pollution would make prevention a priority for all. It would also encourage policymakers to integrate prevention into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and national accounts;
  2. Environmental governance needs to be strengthened at all levels;
  3. Sustainable consumption and production should be promoted; waste reduction and management must be prioritized;
  4. Investment should be made in cleaner production and consumption to help control pollution, alongside increased funding for pollution monitoring, infrastructure, management and control;
  5. Multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaboration are vital for the innovation, knowledge-sharing and trans-disciplinary research needed to develop technological and ecosystem-based solutions.

To reach these objectives, we suggests a dual track of actions as framework for actions on pollution: 

  • Targeted interventions, based on risk assessments and scientific evidence of impacts, to address “hard-hitting” pollutants as well as areas of pollution (air, water marine and coastal, land/soil), including cross-cutting categories (chemicals, waste);
  • System-wide transformations to shift the economy toward greater resource efficiency and equity, circularity and sustainable consumption and production, to support cleaner and more sustainable development which would improve ecosystems resilience. 


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