Beirut, 10 June 2019 (ESCWA)--An estimated nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants and polluted air kills some 7 million people each year, causes long term health problems, and reduces children’s cognitive development.
On 7 June, ESCWA marked World Environment Day focused this year on “beating air pollution” with the participation of six Lebanese Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that showcased possibilities to mitigate this global dilemma.
“Today, we face an urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy not a grey economy,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a message for the occasion.
The event was also an opportunity for the Rafic Hariri Foundation (RHF) to plant the Rafic Hariri Rose at the entrance garden of the UN House in Beirut to recall the efforts of the late Lebanese prime minister in bringing back ESCWA to Beirut in 1997 after it had left the country in 1982.
“ESCWA is a knowledge laboratory for ideas and visions that promotes people welfare and sustainable development,” said Nazek Hariri, widow of the late prime minister and the RHF Chairperson of the Board, in a message delivered by the foundation’s Director-General, Ms. Salwa Alsiniora Baassiri. She noted that the late prime minister had recognized the key role of ESCWA and exerted major efforts so that Lebanon hosts it again in 1997, after around fifteen years of forced absence, adding that ESCWA was behind Hariri’s nomination to the UN Habitat award in 2004, in appreciation for his pioneering role in the reconstruction process of Lebanon and Beirut.
“The fact that the Executive Secretary of ESCWA, Ms. Rola Dashti, welcomed the planting of Rafic Hariri Rose within the headquarters of the regional commission represents an acceptance of what this rose represents in terms of hope in a brighter future. I will make sure that RHF continues to work side by side with ESCWA to make that possible,” Hariri noted in her message.
For her part, Executive Secretary Rola Dashti said the roses represent hope in a bright future prosperous and decent life for the youth. As she underscored that ESCWA prepares studies to monitor climate change and urgent environment challenges, she highlighted the regional commission’s plans to take environmental action a step further.
In fact, ESCWA has already initiated a series of emission reduction measures related to office lighting, air-conditioning, water, and temperature. It also recycles paper and plastic bottles and cans. “ESCWA is planning to rely more on solar energy for electrical power; adopting energy efficiency standards in lighting, cooling and heating; reducing plastic and recycling waste; optimal water consumption; as well as encouraging carpooling practices,” Dashti added.
The NGOs exhibition featured Loop Scooters showcasing an electric scooter sharing service in Beirut; Hariri Foundation presenting on sorting waste in Sidon and other areas; and Compost Baladi that promotes the sound management of organic waste using appropriate technologies. Other participants included Live Love Recycle which collects for free recyclable material from houses within Beirut using electric scooters; Sawa Association planting trees and promoting awareness in public schools about waste management recycling; as well as Rooftop Organic Garden who shared their experience on planting and exploiting an organic garden built on a rooftop in Burj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp.
Sharing key Messages on the “Status of Air Pollution in Lebanon”, the Director of the Nature Conservation Centre at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Professor Najat Aoun Saliba underpinned that the Atmospheric and Analytical Laboratory at AUB has measured air pollution in Beirut for the past 20 years and that levels exceed the World Health Organization guidelines by at least 3 folds.
“We also showed that the major sources of air pollution are cars, diesel generators, power plants, and incinerators,” she said, while stressing that this is due to the lack of regulations and lack of emission control implementation plans. “We need to create a baseline for our work and for that I am proposing to start by training the trainers on how to create standard operating procedures and how to design and execute implementation plan to collect data, store it, conduct measurements, and revise guidelines,” she concluded.
The United Nations marks this day on 5 June every year in order to increase awareness on environment issues and to mobilize resources and political will to improve responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment.
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