Pollution causing more deaths than COVID – UN report

Pollution is contributing to more deaths globally than COVID-19, according to a United Nations environmental report published last week.

The report called for ‘immediate and ambitious action’ to ban some toxic chemicals, according to reports by Reuters news agency.

The report stated that pollution from pesticides, plastics and electronic waste is causing ‘widespread human rights violations’ and at least 9 million premature deaths a year, and that the issue is ‘largely being overlooked’, Reuters said.

The coronavirus pandemic has been attributed to causing close to 5.9 million deaths, according to data aggregator Worldometer.

The document – which seeks the clean-up of polluted sites and, in extreme cases, the possible relocations of affected communities – will be presented next month to the UN Human Rights Council, which has declared a clean environment a human rights.

Chemical waste is set to be part of negotiations at a UN environment conference in Nairobi, Kenya, starting 28 February.

Chemical waste and pollution

Reuters has also reported that a draft resolution on the agenda of a UN environment summit revealed a proposal that could form a new intergovernmental panel to study the dangers of chemical waste and pollution.

The proposal, co-sponsored by 14 other countries, including the UK and six African countries, would aim to create an authoritative “Science-Policy Panel” similar to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Switzerland’s Ambassador Franz Xaver Perrez told Reuters that chemical waste represented a ‘more imminent’ threat than climate change.

With climate change “the bigger impact is in the future,” he said. “But the chemicals impact is the immediate future, it’s right now.”

He expects the proposal to be adopted by consensus and said the panel could be set up within “one to two years” under the oversight of the World Health Organisation and summit host the United Nations Environment Programme.

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