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Massive Benefits Could Be Achieved If Air Pollution Is Controlled In Asia: UN

One billion people would enjoy high air quality, while the number exposed to the worst pollution would be cut by 80 percent to 430 million.

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A man walks in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India. VOA

Asia could reap massive benefits in health, environment, agriculture and economic growth if governments implement 25 policies such as banning the burning of household waste and cutting industrial emissions, according to a U.N. report.

Air pollution is a health risk for 4 billion people in Asia, killing about 4 million of them annually, and efforts to tackle the problem are already on track to ensure air pollution is no worse in 2030, but huge advances could be made, the report said.

The report’s 25 recommendations would cost an estimated $300 billion to $600 billion annually, a big investment but loose change compared with a projected $12 trillion economic growth increase.

The publication of the report, “Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science based solutions,” on Tuesday coincides with the World Health Organization holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week

Air Pollution, China
A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing’s central business district, China. VOA

The recommendations also included post-combustion controls to cut emissions from power stations, higher standards for shipping fuels, ending routine flaring of gas from oil wells, and energy efficiency standards for industry and households.

The biggest gains would come from clean cooking, reducing emissions from industry, using renewable fuels for power generation and more efficient use of fertilizers.

Huge improvements in post-combustion controls and emission standards for road vehicles were already anticipated because of recent legislation, although both could be improved further.

Indeed, India may halt the use of private vehicles in the capital New Delhi if air pollution, which has reached severe levels in recent days, gets worse, a senior environmental official said Tuesday.

global warming, air pollution, Asia
The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2018. VOA

Authorities in the capital have already advised residents to keep outdoor activity to a minimum from the beginning of next month until at least the end of the Hindu festival of Diwali on Nov. 7, when firecrackers typically further taint air choked by the burning of crop stubble in neighboring states.

Helena Molin Valdes, head of Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat at U.N. Environment, said there was increasing political openness to taking action on air pollution and the report reflected three years of discussions with governments.

“What the governments were saying in the region was: ‘Don’t tell us we have a problem, we know there is a problem, how can we deal with it and what will it take to do it?'” she said.

The report estimates its recommendations would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent compared to a baseline scenario, potentially decreasing global warming by one-third of a degree Celsius by 2050, which would also be a contribution in the fight against climate change.

Air pollution, asia
Air pollution shortens life by more than one year in India. Wikimedia Commons

One billion people would enjoy high air quality, while the number exposed to the worst pollution would be cut by 80 percent to 430 million. Premature deaths would fall by a third.

Also Read: Air Pollution A Major Risk For Children: WHO

Crop yields would benefit because of a reduction in ozone, which is estimated to have cut 2015 harvests by 10 percent for maize, 4 percent for rice, 22 percent for soy and 9 percent across Asia, a total of 51 million tons. (VOA)

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Worldwide Protests against Climate Change to Draw More than One Million Participants

A day of worldwide protests against climate change is underway that organizers predict will draw more than one million participants

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Worldwide, Protests, Climate Change
Activists march in a climate change rally in London, Britain, Sept. 20, 2019. VOA

A day of worldwide protests against climate change is underway that organizers predict will draw more than one million participants, the largest-ever expected demonstration decrying the man-made causes of a warming planet.

Friday’s protests began across Asia, where hundreds of thousands of students and others took to the streets calling for action against climate change ahead of a United Nations summit on the issue. The protests later spread to Africa and Europe, with huge crowds filling the streets.

In Australia alone, more than 300,000 children and adults rallied with the backing of some local authorities, schools and businesses. School Strike 4 Climate in Australia said the throngs of protestors represented the largest climate protest in the country’s history. Warmer weather patterns have taken a toll on Australia, sparking drought, flooding, more intense brushfires and the whitening of the Great Barrier Reef.

Smaller protests occurred across Asia, from the Philippines to Hong Kong and India.

Worldwide, Protests, Climate Change
Activists call for action against climate change at a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, Sept. 20, 2019. VOA

Rallies are also underway in the United States, where organizers say more than 800 events have been planned, including several high-profile demonstrations in New York. More than 1 million students in some 1,800 New York City public schools have been allowed to skip school in order to participate.

In Africa, protests were held in Nairobi, Kenya and in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Experts say Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change and the least equipped to deal with the phenomenon.

Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg helped inspire the protests, staging weekly demonstrations for the past year calling on world leaders to bolster efforts to combat climate change. Friday’s Global Climate Strike is the third of several worldwide climate rallies organized by students and led by the 16-year-old Thunberg.

Thunberg is scheduled to speak at an emergency U.N. climate change summit on Monday, when Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to urge world leaders to exceed their commitments to the 2015 Paris climate accord.

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Guterres has demanded that countries present plans of direct action, including ending construction of coal-fired power plants and reducing fossil fuel subsidies.

Countries that are committed to the Paris agreement have pledged to limit the long-term rise in the Earth’s average temperature to two degrees over pre-industrial levels.

Worldwide, Protests, Climate Change
Kenyan protesters, predominantly young people, march demanding their government take immediate action against climate change, in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 20, 2019. (M. Yusuf/VOA) VOA

A U.N. report to be released next week is expected to conclude that global warming and pollution are devastating oceans and polar regions, raising risks for ecological devastation around the world.

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The Trump administration has cast doubt on a broad scientific consensus that the earth is warming and human activity is mostly to blame. (VOA)