04 April 2017

Greater Manchester becomes UK’s first WHO and UN Environment BreatheLife region

​Greater Manchester has reaffirmed its commitment to tackling air pollution by becoming the UK’s first member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN Environment-led ‘BreatheLife’ cities network – with a pledge to meeting strict WHO air quality targets.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) enquired about the scheme on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). 

After reviewing the city region’s significant actions, plans and ambitions to reduce air pollution as a cause of ill-health, the WHO and its partners in UN Environment and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition invited Greater Manchester to apply successfully for BreatheLife status.

Tony Lloyd, Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Air quality is one of the most important challenges facing Greater Manchester.

“While air pollution is falling in our region, we need to do more to make sure it falls further to protect the health of all our communities.

“Doing nothing isn’t an option, and becoming a BreatheLife city region further demonstrates our commitment to tackle air quality, with definite targets to be met.

“It also gives additional support to our wide-ranging initiatives to reduce airborne pollution, including the Greater Manchester Air Quality Action Plan, ultimately ensuring Greater Manchester’s continued development as one of the UK’s foremost city regions.”

Both short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants can affect people’s health, with poor air quality contributing to respiratory illness, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Reducing health-harming pollutants from sources such as diesel vehicles, landfill and wood-burning could also slow the pace of climate change by as much as 0.5⁰C by 2050, according to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which is made up of 51 countries, including the United Kingdom, and 62 international and non-governmental organisations.

In Greater Manchester, road transport accounts for 65% of nitrogen oxide and 79% of particulate emissions, the most serious air pollutants. As a result, efforts to improve air quality locally, through the Greater Manchester Air Quality Action Plan, focus on locations with the highest levels of air pollution near major roads and areas with heavy traffic in towns and cities.

TfGM, the GMCA, Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities and other partners are working together to implement the policies and measures set out in the action plan, to meet EU air quality thresholds as soon as possible.

Now, as a member of the BreatheLife network, Greater Manchester has also pledged to achieve the WHO’s air quality guideline for fine (PM2.5) particulates of 10 µg/m2 by 2030.

BreatheLife membership gives TfGM and local authorities access to technical advice and resources, plus the chance to share best practice with other BreatheLife cities, supporting their ongoing work to improve air quality.

Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator of the BreatheLife campaign, said: “Clean air is one of the best assets a city can offer for the health of its citizens.

“Achieving the WHO air quality guidelines will improve the health of people in communities throughout the region, and at all ages, young and older. Many of the same urban improvements that reduce air pollution from transport and other sources can also help prevent traffic injury, reduce noise, and stimulate physical activity important to healthy lifestyles.

“This is a great direction for Greater Manchester.”

UN Environment Executive Director, Erik Solheim, added: “Clean air is the most basic of human rights, and a healthy environment makes for healthy, innovative cities.

“Greater Manchester deserves recognition as a leader in initiatives to improve the lives of its people, and I'm delighted that the cradle of the Industrial Revolution will help us carry this incredibly important message across the United Kingdom and the planet.”

For more information on the BreatheLife campaign, please visit: www.breathelife2030.org.

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