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May, 2016:

Hong Kong to charge glass recycling levy

Fee aimed at ending wholesale dumping in landfills to have major impact on bars and restaurants

Thirsty Hongkongers may have to pay more for drinks sold in glass bottles after the imposition of a levy aimed at ending wholesale dumping of the ¬containers in landfills was given the legislative green light on Friday.

The move – that will have a significant impact on bars and restaurants across the city – targets ¬manufacturers and importers.

Lawmakers yesterday passed an amendment bill to start charging the levy from 2018. The amount has yet to be finalised, but the government has proposed charging HK$1 for every one-litre bottle. The money earned would be used to hire a contractor to collect and process glass bottles.

The majority of lawmakers supported the ¬move, with only five opposing it, including the Liberal Party’s Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who ¬represents the catering sector.

According to official statistics, the city threw away 204 tonnes of glass containers a day in 2014, ¬accounting for about 2 per cent of solid waste ¬produced daily.

Cheung said he supported protecting the ¬environment, but questioned the effectiveness of the levy in reducing waste and increasing the number of bottles being recycled.

“The government should think about giving tax rebates to caterers and retailers to encourage them to bring glass bottles back [for recycling],” he said.

Cheung warned that the additional cost due to the levy could trickle down to restaurants and bars.

The Liberal Party’s Vincent Fang Kang, who also voted against the proposal, said the levy alone would not solve the problem as there were not enough supporting services in place to deal with the waste.

“Perhaps the government could give incentives, for example in terms of land, tax or loans, to attract foreign and local investors to put money into the glass recycling industry,” he said.

Fang also accused the government of doing little to educate the public about recycling glass.

Lawmaker Wu Chi-wai of the Democratic Party said while he supported the levy, the government should also come up with initiatives to encourage ¬recycling at the community level.

The food and beverage industry is worried about the ¬impact on business.

“If the levy is too high, the costs could be passed on to restaurants and supermarkets, which could in turn increase prices for customers. This could affect business,” Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman of the Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades, said.

“The HK$1 per one-litre bottle proposed earlier might not seem a lot for a bottle of wine, for example, but for a bottled drink that costs, say, HK$10, the levy would be 10 per cent the price of the drink.”

But Wong said a lower levy could also be ¬problematic. “If the revenue from the levy is not big enough to cover the costs of the recycling, this could lead to a possible future levy on restaurants and supermarkets,” he said.

Wong said his group would seek discussions with the government on details of the scheme.

A bar manager in Central said the levy would ¬likely affect her bar’s profit level.

“It could cost more for us to buy drinks [from ¬distributors] but we can’t charge the customers too much or they won’t come. So that means we will have to make less money,” she said.

Despite the prospect of higher prices for bottled drinks, bar customers did not seem to be worried.

One customer said possible price increases after the levy was enforced would not deter him.

“A small bottle of beer is already HKD$50-$60; how much more can they charge [with the levy]? The levy won’t stop me from heading to the bars to enjoy myself,” he said.

While various voluntary recycling schemes have been introduced over the years, there is no citywide, mandatory recycling scheme for glass bottles.

Official figures show only 1,500 tonnes of glass waste was recovered from 55,000 tonnes generated in 2011.

As of March this year, there were about 1,300 ¬recycling points in residential areas and another 580 in public areas across the city.

The government said it would expand the ¬recycling network in the future.

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‘Biodegradable’ Plastics Are A Big Fat Lie

A new U.N. report says the supposed greener technology is anything but.

A prediction that the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 is likely to intensify the push for sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives.

Biodegradable plastics have long been touted as a “greener” technology, but a new report from the United Nations says these plastics do little, if anything, to actually protect the planet and marine creatures.

“Plastics marked as ‘biodegradable’ do not degrade rapidly in the ocean,” says the report, published Monday.

The 179-page report on plastic marine debris is one of several documents released in time for the United Nations Environment Assembly, which kicked off Monday in Nairobi, Kenya.

Plastics, which can cause serious ecological harm, “are now ubiquitous in the ocean, found in every ocean and on every shoreline from the Arctic through the tropics to the Antarctic,” the report states.

Biodegradable plastics — which have been used for shopping bags, water bottles and food containers — are designed to be less durable and capable of degrading quickly in the environment. But the problem, according to the U.N., is that the conditions required for such plastics to break down exist almost exclusively in industrial composters, not in the ocean.

The description is “well-intentioned but wrong,” Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the U.N. Environment Program, told The Guardian.

“A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of [122 degrees Fahrenheit] and that is not the ocean,” McGlade told the publication. “They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down.”

The U.N. estimates that global plastic production grew 4 percent from 2013 to 2014, exceeding 311 million metric tons. At least 8 million metric tons — the equivalent of one garbage truck every minute — leak into the ocean each year, according to the World Economic Forum.

The U.N. says improving waste collection and management is the “most urgent solution” to reducing plastic litter, but social attitudes are also critical.

“There is a moral argument that we should not allow the ocean to become further polluted with plastic waste, and that marine littering should be considered a ‘common concern of humankind,’” the report says.

In other words, don’t pat yourself on the back the next time you reach for those biodegradable plastic bags. We need to do a lot more than that.

Biodiversity steering committee ends three years of work ‘disappointed’

Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai apologised to committee members and said she hoped the work their work would continue

Members of a steering committee tasked with preparing the city’s first biodiversity action and strategy plan (BSAP) have ended three years of work without receiving a draft report from the government.

Disappointed members – whose terms expire this month – had expected a draft before their final meeting on Friday but were presented only with a summary of the public consultation results and a rough outline of what the report would cover.

Members pointed out that their 2013 letter of appointment had tasked them with “steering the formulation process”, “consider recommendations” and to “ratify the final draft of the BSAP” before its submission to policymaking bodies.

“We were asked to ratify the document. This was the task we were given and we need to know if our task had been truncated and why,” said member Paul Zimmerman.

Member Ruy Baretto was concerned that the committee was missing out on a crucial step of the process and called on the authorities to present a final draft to them for scrutiny at another meeting. “We are being pushed off the boat before the boat reaches the harbour and this is unacceptable,” he said.

Professor Jim Chi-yung added: “We are all quite disappointed because members had expected a draft report today but all we got was a table of contents.”

Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department assistant director Simon Chan Kin-fung believed there may have been some “confusion” with their roles. This was followed by an apology by Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai.

“We could not have given the so-called ratification to another body that is outside the government’s usual framework of dealing with policy,” Loh said. “I hope members will accept our apology and be willing to go on with the process in place.”

Loh also said there were no plans to extend members’ appointments and that the government was ready to finish the report and commence ministerial-level discussions.

She expected the final report to be published within the year.

The government received 2,444 submissions to a three month public consultation, which ended last month. Of these, 126 were individual submissions – most of which came from green groups – 85 were group submissions and 2,231 were standard “templates” submissions.

According to the department’s summary, “many” supported the extension of protected areas and there was “general support” for enriching urban biodiversity.

It acknowledged that green groups demanded 10 per cent of Hong Kong waters to be marine protected areas and that local communities emphasised the need to “respect land rights”. “Some” requested for the review of relevant legislation and policies.

To implement the BSAP plan, the AFCD has been allocated with HK$150 million to spend up to 2019. An advisory body and inter-departmental working group would also be formed to oversee its implementation.

Sadiq Khan to more than double size of London’s clean air zone

New mayor of London calls air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and plans to bring the increased ultra low emission zone into force early

The new mayor of London Sadiq Khan has made his first major policy announcement, unveiling plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) – which could also now come into force earlier than planned – will require drivers of the 2.5m oldest and dirtiest vehicles to pay a charge. Owners of cars that fail to meet the standards will pay a £12.50 charge, separate to the congestion charge.

The scheme is intended to act as an incentive to drivers to use cleaner vehicles or alternative transport to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles.

Under Khan’s plans, which will now be subject to a public consultation, the ULEZ will stretch from the north to south circular roads in London rather than just the much smaller congestion charge zone in central London as currently planned. Officials said the area covered will more than double in size.

Khan said his predecessor, Boris Johnson, had been too slow to act and had left the city a “laughing stock” internationally, and the government had been “hopelessly inactive” on the issue. Officials said the ULEZ, under a consultation to be published within weeks, could now come into force as soon as 2019 rather than the original plan of 2020.

“I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean up London’s air – our biggest environmental challenge,” Khan said at a school in east London. He said London had only acted on pollution in the past after emergencies, such as the Great Smogs of the1950s: “But I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge.”

The mayor’s office also said an extra charge on the most polluting vehicles would be brought in from 2017, which would be administered by the congestion charge system but be separate to the congestion charge. It is not yet clear what that charge will be.

Khan chatted with pupils and sowed seeds with them at a rooftop garden of a primary school in Aldgate, which is situated on a busy road packed with cars and buses. Sir John Cass’s Foundation is equipped with its own pollution sensors as well as one from the wider London Air Quality Network, decorated with a design created by schoolchildren.

“For me it can’t be right that this school on three occasions last year has to make the call whether to allow children to play in the playground breathing in this dangerous stuff or play indoors,” Khan told the Guardian.

He said the issue was very personal to him because of his asthma, but also as a father of two daughters, and as someone with nephews and nieces. “At the age of 45 I’ve been diagnosed with asthma. All the experts say that one out of three people who have asthma could be because of air quality.”

Khan said that under eight years of Boris Johnson the city’s reputation had gone from: “being one of the world-leading cities [in terms of air pollution], according to people around the world, to being at best mediocre.” He added the city had gone from having an earlier reputation for leadership on climate change and air quality but was now “a laughing stock around the world.”

A study by King’s College London last year found that nearly 9,500 people in the capital die early because of air pollution. Earlier this year it took parts of London just one week to breach annual limits, and a major global study by the World Health Organisation on Thursday found the city breached its guideline limits for two harmful types of particulate pollution.

Alan Andrews of ClientEarth, which has sued the government over the illegal pollution levels in London and other cites, said the mayor’s plan was a “hugely positive announcement”.

“We will have to wait and see if the detail of the mayor’s proposals matches his ambition. With air pollution causing over 9,000 deaths a year in London it is vital that all options to solve this problem are on the table. It will be crucial that the ULEZ ensures vehicles meet the most stringent emission standards when driving on London’s roads, not just in discredited laboratory tests,” he said.

“Today’s announcement, coming so early in the new mayor’s term, should send a clear message to the UK government that ambitious and bold action is needed. The government must now up its game so that the whole country can breathe cleaner air.”

Caroline Russell, Green party London Assembly member, said: “While I warmly welcome the mayor’s intention to expand the ULEZ to the north and south circular, it’s essential that all outer London boroughs should also have the ability to opt in right from the beginning.”

But Friends of the Earth said that while it welcomed such a swift plan and expanded ULEZ, Khan was sending mixed messages by clearing an obstacle to City Airport’s expansion earlier this week. “It is confusing that this announcement comes in the same week that Sadiq Khan has removed a key hurdle in the expansion of City Airport which will only add to London’s dirty air woes,” said its campaigner, Sophie Neuburg.

Barcelona is creating massive, pedestrian-friendly “superblocks” to combat pollution

Pedestrians will soon have more options in Barcelona.

Pedestrians will soon have more options in Barcelona.

Air pollution, noise, and pedestrian accidents plague Barcelona. Like many modern urban areas, the Spanish city has consistently failed to meet air quality standards set by the World Health Organization, and studies attribute more than 3,500 deaths per year in Barcelona to the city’s polluted air. High noise levels from traffic and tourists, as well as scores of pedestrian injuries and deaths, have pushed city officials to create a bold plan they hope will set an example for the rest of the world.

“Superblocks” are at the core of the new plan, which was first outlined in a 102-page report in 2014. By limiting cars and buses to main thoroughfares in the city, urban planners are hoping to encourage people to walk and bicycle more than they do now. Barcelona will add 200 km (124 miles) of bike path to the city’s current total of 100 km (62 miles), and will reroute busses so that all residents have a bus stop within 250 meters of their home.

More room for pedestrian activities.(Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona PMU, 2013-2018)

More room for pedestrian activities.(Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona PMU, 2013-2018)

Barcelona’s “Urban Mobility Plan” will be implemented in phases, and starts by targeting the most congested neighborhoods. The Eixample neighborhood, which was built in the mid-1800s to relieve the density of the overcrowded Old City, will be the first to adopt superblocks, according to The Guardian. The neighborhood has only 1.85 square meters of green space per inhabitant, far below the WHO’s suggestion of 9 square meters (97 square feet), while the rest of Barcelona has only 6.6 square meters (71 square feet) of green space per inhabitant, on average.

An aerial view of the Eixample neighborhood.(Alhzeiia/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

An aerial view of the Eixample neighborhood.(Alhzeiia/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Eixample, which literally means “expansion,” is composed of distinctive octagonal blocks. Nine of these blocks, housing 5,000 to 6,000 people total, will make up one superblock in the city’s new plan. The internal intersections, devoid of cars, will become municipal squares. Each superblock will contain 160 of these squares, which will add a lot of green space.

“This plan sums up the essence of urban ecology,” Janet Sanz, a city councillor for ecology, urbanism and mobility, told The Guardian. “Public spaces need to be spaces to play, where green is not an anecdote—where the neighborhood’s history and local life have a presence.”

The global air pollution ‘blindspot’ affecting 1 billion people

More than 100 of the world’s poorest and most poorly governed countries have no or limited monitoring of the polluted air their citizens are breathing

More than 1 billion people live in countries that do not monitor the air they breathe, according to data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Guardian analysis has revealed a great air pollution blindspot stretching the length of Africa, across large parts of the former Soviet Union, south-east Asia and the Caribbean. In 92 countries the monitoring equipment and staff needed to measure one of the world’s most deadly pollutants – particulate matter (PM) – are simply not available.

A further 33 countries, including Indonesia, Egypt and Russia monitor just one or two cities.

Outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people each year and it is getting worse. Globally, pollution levels have risen by 8% in five years. But there are signs that it can be brought under control. According to the WHO, pollution is falling in many places where monitoring occurs, including a third of cities in low- and middle-income countries.

Setting up stations to record pollution was the first step, said a WHO spokeswoman: “The cities which have invested in the capacity to regularly monitor and report the local air quality measurements have already demonstrated a commitment to starting to address air quality issues and public health.”


In those countries with no checks, citizens’ lungs remain the only place where pollution is recorded. People may be acutely aware of the corrupted air, but without the evidence that global or national standards have been breached, there is little imperative for governments to act.

The WHO data, made public last week, showed air pollution was a hallmark of global inequality. Where it is monitored, denizens of poor cities are almost twice as likely as the rich to be breathing bad air.

Poverty is also a common theme. Of the world’s poorest 50 countries by GDP per capita, 35 are not monitoring air in any of their cities. Because they are predominantly poor- to middle-income, unmonitored countries are very likely to have high air pollution in their cities, meaning the majority of city-dwellers in those places will be be unknowingly exposed to pollution that breaches WHO standards.

The cost of setting up a single monitoring station is currently around $150,000-200,000, according to the UN Environment Programme. This does not include the ongoing staffing and maintenance costs. Although new technology may be significantly cheaper.

In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, just 10 out of 54 countries are doing any monitoring at all. Africa has just 1.3% of the cities where the WHO records air quality, despite having 16% of global population and cities set to set to triple in size in the next 50 years.

But it is not only the poor who lack information – the poorly governed also live in the dark. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) democracy index labels 51 countries as “authoritarian”. Of these, 36 do not monitor their air. Just five non-monitoring countries appear in the democratic top 50.

In post-Soviet states, most of which rank as middle-income countries, barely any investment has been made in keeping tabs on the air. Across the vast expanse of Russia, with its thousand towns and cities, only Moscow records air quality.

Tiny Latvia boasts more monitoring stations than its former imperial master. Only the three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – have managed to implement thorough surveillance. Each of these rates above 7 out of 10 on the EIU index – Russia scores 3.31.

Even in countries where democratic freedom is limited, public information about air pollution can force great change. In China, the public outcry that followed the release of air quality data by the US embassy at Beijing’s forced the Communist party to make air a national priority. The consequent control measures, including a mass shutdown of coal power stations and steelworks, has lead to falling pollution in some of the worst-affected Chinese cities.

The pressure has also encouraged more monitoring. In China, 210 cities are now monitored, compared to 111 just two years before. This fits with an improving trend across the world. In 2014, 1,622 cities were monitored. Now it’s 2,974.

With high costs associated with monitoring, it is necessary to target high-risk areas first. One satellite study found that 96% of west Africans live above the WHO guidelines. However satellite observations are notoriously inexact. Professor Randall Martin is head of the Spartan project, which operates a network of on-ground sites at which satellite measurements can be calibrated.

“Satellite remote sensing offers a global observation source to fill that monitoring gap,” he said.

With these improvements, the blindspot is growing smaller. The number of cities monitored in Africa has doubled, with the notable addition of Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country had no cities being recorded in 2014. Now it has 12, with the city of Onitsha named as the worst city in the world for PM10 (particles under 10 but above 2.5 microns in width) pollution.

Similarly, because of an expansion of monitoring in Iran, the city of Zabol has superseded Delhi as the city with the worst fine particle (PM2.5) pollution.

With hundreds, perhaps thousands, more cities (including Lagos, Nigeria’s largest conurbation) waiting for the fog to be lifted on their own air quality, it is unlikely these two will remain at the top for long.

Why air pollution is damaging more than just your breathing

The worse the pollution gets, the higher the costs multiply for business

Air pollution caused some 1.6 million people in China to die prematurely in 2013, according to research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) early this year.

The University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health found that air pollution caused some 2,000 premature deaths in Hong Kong and public health costs amounted to HK$27 billion in 2015.

And late last year, severe smog caused the government to issue Beijing’s first ever pollution “red alert”, closing down schools.

Most of us are well aware of the health effects brought by airborne pollution and the resulting costs this brings with it. But less known is the psychological effect it has on our behaviour, and consequently our performance in the workplace.

Such psychological effect is seldom considered when assessing pollution’s true economic impact.

In a recent research study. My research colleagues and I examined the effect of air pollution on workplace behaviour in the city of Wuhan in central China – a country infamous for having some of the most dangerously polluted urban environments in the world.

In our study we focused on a behavioural theory that essentially says that an individual’s self-control draws upon a limited pool of mental resources, one that can be used up and needs opportunities to restore.

Air pollution can drain our self-control resources psychologically, causing a range of conditions including insomnia, feelings of anxiety or even depression.

Through a study of 161 full-time employees across different industries, our research examined how pollution affects two kinds of behaviour – organisational citizenship behaviour and counterproductive workplace behaviour.

Organisational citizenship behaviour relates to employee actions that contribute towards the functioning of the firm, but are optional and not specifically part of their job.

Some might label it “going above and beyond the call of duty” which includes actions such as willingness to be helpful to others, to engage with their team beyond their job scope, or to take action that protects or improves the firm’s image.

The second behaviour is just the flipside. Counterproductive behaviour includes a range of negative employee actions such as working on personal matters during work hours, as well as rudeness, hostility or even outright bullying towards colleagues. A common term for this might be “deviance at the workplace”.

In our research we asked participants to record daily diary entries rating their perception of pollution levels, their level of mental resource depletion as well as organisational citizenship and counterproductive workplace behaviours.

We found a clear link between high air pollution and decreased levels of organisational citizenship behaviour. Likewise increased pollution saw a corresponding and marked increase in counterproductive workplace behaviour.

Taking into account variations for gender and age, we observed that air pollution leads to a decrease in self-control resource, which in turn leads to increased counterproductive and decreased organisational citizenship behaviours. Specifically the data gathered showed that the severity of air pollution accounted for an average of around 10 per cent of an individual’s daily self-control resource depletion.

The impact of air pollution makes us less giving or engaged at work and more deviant.

Moreover, in line with ego depletion theory it is apparent that both the direct physiological impact of air pollution and the individual’s own perception of its severity act to deplete resources affecting self-control.

A worker may experience little or no health effects from pollution while another in the same office may suffer badly. Likewise one individual’s perception of what constitutes “severe” pollution may be very different from another.

An essential factor in determining an individual’s ability to manage the effects of drained self-control resources is the support they receive – or feel they receive – from those around them. For example, demonstrations of active support from the firm can go some way to replenish an employee’s mental resource pool.

Indeed our study also found that the negative effects of air pollution on employees’ behaviour were mitigated when organisational support was high – i.e. when the employee perceived that their supervisor or firm was concerned for their well-being.

We also came across firms taking active steps to tackle the immediate effects of pollution, such as installing more effective air filters in their offices.

Similarly supportive firms might provide additional work breaks or the option to work from home on high pollution days, or they may provide easier and better access to

While this favours an argument that firms should do all that they can to support employees exposed to severe air pollution, all of this comes with a cost to the firm.

The worse the pollution gets, the higher the costs multiply for business – so at a broader level the best option would obviously be if there were no pollution at all.

By conducting studies like ours we can better understand the true social and economic implications of pollution, and in turn add weight to the financial argument for stronger and more effective policies to tackle pollution at source.

And in turn, create a cleaner and healthier environment for Hong Kong and China’s next generation to grow up in.

Sam Yam Kai Chi is Assistant Professor of Management & Organization at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.

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Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities

More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.

According to the latest urban air quality database, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General, Family, Women and Children’s Health. “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest—are the most impacted.”

Global urban air pollution trends

WHO was able to compare a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013. PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health. Data was then analysed to develop regional trends.

Key trends from 2008-2013:

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by 8%, despite improvements in some regions.
  • In general, urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.
  • The highest urban air pollution levels were experienced in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, with annual mean levels often exceeding 5-10 times WHO limits, followed by low-income cities in the Western Pacific Region.
  • In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5% in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median. The database now contains PM measurements for more than twice as many cities than previous versions.

Reducing the toll on human health

Ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health—causing more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide every year.

“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years.

Reducing industrial smokestack emissions, increasing use of renewable power sources, like solar and wind, and prioritizing rapid transit, walking and cycling networks in cities are among the suite of available and affordable strategies.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr Carlos Dora. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

During the World Health Assembly, 23-28 May, Member States will discuss a road map for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution.

WHO’s Air quality guidelines offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for key air pollutants that pose health risks. The Guidelines indicate that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m), air pollution-related deaths could be reduced by roughly 15%.

Notes to editors:

The WHO urban air quality database builds on well-established, public air quality monitoring systems as a source of reliable data in different parts of the world. National efforts to create operational and representative air quality monitoring systems should be strongly encouraged and supported.

The primary source of data include official reporting from countries to WHO, and official national and sub-national reports and web sites containing measurements of PM10 or PM2.5. Measurements reported by the following regional networks were used: the Clean Air Asia for Asia and the European Environment Agency for Europe’s Air Quality e-Reporting database. In the absence of data from the previous sources, data from UN and development agencies, peer-reviewed journal articles and ground measurements compiled in the framework of the Global Burden of Disease project were used.

Annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM10 and/or PM2.5) based on daily measurements, or data which could be aggregated into annual means, were included in the database. In the absence of annual means measurements covering a more limited period of the year were exceptionally used.

WHO Ambient Air Quality Guidelines

10 μg/m3 annual mean
25 μg/m3 24-hour mean

20 μg/m3 annual mean
50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

For more information, please contact:

Nada Osseiran
WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health
Telephone: +41 22 791 4475
Mobile: +41 79 445 1624

Kimberly Chriscaden
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 2885
Mobile : +41 79 603 1891



2016年5月12日 | 日内瓦 – 全球80%以上生活在监测空气质量的城市的人,呼吸着质量超出世卫组织限值的空气。虽然全世界所有区域都受到影响,但是低收入国家的人口受影响最大。




世卫组织家庭、妇女和儿童卫生事务助理总干事Flavia Bustreo博士说:“空气污染是造成疾病和死亡的一个主要原因。好消息是更多城市正在加紧监测空气质量,这样在采取行动改善空气质量的时候,它们就有了可以参照的标准。当肮脏的空气像毯子一样裹住我们的城市,最弱势的城市人群受影响最大,也就是最年轻、最年老和最贫困的人。”






世卫组织公共卫生、环境和健康问题社会决定因素司司长Maria Neira博士说:“城市空气污染继续以惊人的速度增加,严重破坏人类健康。同时,人们的意识也在提示,更多城市正在监测空气质量。空气质量改善,全球呼吸道和心血管相关疾病就相应减少。”




世卫组织的Carlos Dora博士说:“城市和国家政府使空气质量成为卫生和发展重点至关重要。空气质量改进时,与空气污染有关的疾病导致的卫生费用就会减少,工人的劳动生产率提高,预期寿命延长。减少空气污染还会带来额外的气候红利,这可以是各国对气候条约承诺的一部分。”












Nada Osseiran
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Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come

Source known only as John Doe says income inequality “one of the defining issues of our time” and calls on governments to address it.

The anonymous whistleblower behind the Panama Papers has conditionally offered to make the documents available to government authorities.

In a statement issued to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the so-called “John Doe” behind the biggest information leak in history cites the need for better whistleblower protection and has hinted at even more revelations to come.

Titled “The Revolution Will Be Digitized” the 1800-word statement gives justification for the leak, saying that “income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time” and says that government authorities need to do more to address it.

Süddeutsche Zeitung has authenticated that the statement came from the Panama Papers source. The statement in full:

The Revolution Will Be Digitized

John Doe

Income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time. It affects all of us, the world over. The debate over its sudden acceleration has raged for years, with politicians, academics and activists alike helpless to stop its steady growth despite countless speeches, statistical analyses, a few meagre protests, and the occasional documentary.

Still, questions remain: why? And why now?

The Panama Papers provide a compelling answer to these questions: massive, pervasive corruption. And it’s not a coincidence that the answer comes from a law firm. More than just a cog in the machine of “wealth management,” Mossack Fonseca used its influence to write and bend laws worldwide to favour the interests of criminals over a period of decades. In the case of the island of Niue, the firm essentially ran a tax haven from start to finish. Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack would have us believe that their firm’s shell companies, sometimes called “special purpose vehicles,” are just like cars. But used car salesmen don’t write laws. And the only “special purpose” of the vehicles they produced was too often fraud, on a grand scale.

Shell companies are often associated with the crime of tax evasion, but the Panama Papers show beyond a shadow of a doubt that although shell companies are not illegal by definition, they are used to carry out a wide array of serious crimes that go beyond evading taxes. I decided to expose Mossack Fonseca because I thought its founders, employees and clients should have to answer for their roles in these crimes, only some of which have come to light thus far. It will take years, possibly decades, for the full extent of the firm’s sordid acts to become known.

In the meantime, a new global debate has started, which is encouraging. Unlike the polite rhetoric of yesteryear that carefully omitted any suggestion of wrongdoing by the elite, this debate focuses directly on what matters.

In that regard, I have a few thoughts.

For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have. My viewpoint is entirely my own, as was my decision to share the documents with Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), not for any specific political purpose, but simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described.

The prevailing media narrative thus far has focused on the scandal of what is legal and allowed in this system. What is allowed is indeed scandalous and must be changed.

But we must not lose sight of another important fact: the law firm, its founders, and employees actually did knowingly violate myriad laws worldwide, repeatedly. Publicly they plead ignorance, but the documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing. At the very least we already know that Mossack personally perjured himself before a federal court in Nevada, and we also know that his information technology staff attempted to cover up the underlying lies. They should all be prosecuted accordingly with no special treatment.

In the end, thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents. ICIJ and its partner publications have rightly stated that they will not provide them to law enforcement agencies. I, however, would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able.

That being said, I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples.

Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop. Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents.

In the meantime, I call on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers. In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners. The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access.

And while it’s one thing to extol the virtues of government transparency at summits and in sound bites, it’s quite another to actually implement it. It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait.

Of course, those are hardly the only issues that need fixing. Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand has been curiously quiet about his country’s role in enabling the financial fraud Mecca that is the Cook Islands. In Britain, the Tories have been shameless about concealing their own practices involving offshore companies, while Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the United States Treasury, just announced her resignation to work instead for HSBC, one of the most notorious banks on the planet (not coincidentally headquartered in London). And so the familiar swish of America’s revolving door echoes amidst deafening global silence from thousands of yet-to-be-discovered ultimate beneficial owners who are likely praying that her replacement is equally spineless. In the face of political cowardice, it’s tempting to yield to defeatism, to argue that the status quo remains fundamentally unchanged, while the Panama Papers are, if nothing else, a glaring symptom of our society’s progressively diseased and decaying moral fabric.

But the issue is finally on the table, and that change takes time is no surprise. For fifty years, executive, legislative, and judicial branches around the globe have utterly failed to address the metastasizing tax havens spotting Earth’s surface. Even today, Panama says it wants to be known for more than papers, but its government has conveniently examined only one of the horses on its offshore merry-go-round.

Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed. Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens.

Hopelessly backward and inefficient courts have failed. Judges have too often acquiesced to the arguments of the rich, whose lawyers—and not just Mossack Fonseca—are well trained in honouring the letter of the law, while simultaneously doing everything in their power to desecrate its spirit. The media has failed. Many news networks are cartoonish parodies of their former selves, individual billionaires appear to have taken up newspaper ownership as a hobby, limiting coverage of serious matters concerning the wealthy, and serious investigative journalists lack funding. The impact is real: in addition to Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ, and despite explicit claims to the contrary, several major media outlets did have editors review documents from the Panama Papers. They chose not to cover them. The sad truth is that among the most prominent and capable media organizations in the world there was not a single one interested in reporting on the story. Even Wikileaks didn’t answer its tip line repeatedly.

But most of all, the legal profession has failed. Democratic governance depends upon responsible individuals throughout the entire system who understand and uphold the law, not who understand and exploit it. On average, lawyers have become so deeply corrupt that it is imperative for major changes in the profession to take place, far beyond the meek proposals already on the table. To start, the term “legal ethics,” upon which codes of conduct and licensure are nominally based, has become an oxymoron. Mossack Fonseca did not work in a vacuum—despite repeated fines and documented regulatory violations, it found allies and clients at major law firms in virtually every nation. If the industry’s shattered economics were not already evidence enough, there is now no denying that lawyers can no longer be permitted to regulate one another. It simply doesn’t work. Those able to pay the most can always find a lawyer to serve their ends, whether that lawyer is at Mossack Fonseca or another firm of which we remain unaware. What about the rest of society?

The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.

Historians can easily recount how issues involving taxation and imbalances of power have led to revolutions in ages past. Then, military might was necessary to subjugate peoples, whereas now, curtailing information access is just as effective or more so, since the act is often invisible. Yet we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots: from start to finish, inception to global media distribution, the next revolution will be digitized.

Or perhaps it has already begun.