Thirty-five Mayors from across the world, including New Delhi and Bengaluru, on Friday pledged to deliver clean air to the over 140 million people living in their cities.
The pledge unveiled at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen commits cities to set ambitious pollution reduction targets and implement substantive clean air policies by 2025.
By signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, the Mayors recognise that breathing clean air is a human right and commit to work together to form an unparalleled global coalition for clean air.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said via video: "Delhi faces challenges ranging from the Indo-Gangetic emissions, misaligned governance structures, and multiple government agencies in the nation's capital, with the common citizen bearing its greatest burden."
"Thus, the Delhi government has strived to make energy, mobility, water, infrastructure, health and education into a sustainable public good. These initiatives have led to a 25 per cent reduction in particulate emissions in three years, making Delhi a role model for Indian cities," he said in an address to the summit.
The government's clean air plan ahead focuses on an integrated system of governance with welfare outcomes and green solutions at its core.
"These include the creation of city-scale 269 water bodies, greenscaping of 500 kms of roads and induction of 1,000 electric buses as well as several policies, programs and projects to curb air pollution," Kejriwal, who was denied permission by the Ministry of External Affairs to visit Denmark to attend the summit, said.
The cities signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration are: Amman, Austin, Bengaluru, Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dubai, Durban (eThekwini), Guadalajara, Heidelberg, Houston, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Lima, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Medellin, Mexico City, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Portland, Quezon City, Quito, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tokyo, Warsaw and Washington D.C.
By publicly reporting on their progress, the cities plan to generate a 'race to the top' in cleaning the air in the world's big cities.
The Mayors, speaking at the press conference in Copenhagen had a clear message: "We know we need to tackle the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency. Both need swift, unprecedented and collective action to remove the pollution that is harming our health and warming our planet."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nine in 10 citizens around the world breathe dirty air, and seven million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution.
Air pollution is creating a global public health crisis -- one that is rooted in social injustice.
Typically, it is the poorest and most vulnerable communities that are most affected by dirty, polluted air.
Through the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, the mayors commit to using their power and influence to reduce air pollution and work towards meeting the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
This means cities will continually reduce their local emissions, and advocate for reductions in regional emissions, resulting in continuous decline in air pollution levels that move towards the WHO guidelines.
The signatories of the declaration pledge to set ambitious pollution reduction targets within two years that meet or exceed national commitments, putting them on a path towards meeting WHO guidelines. The cities will have to implement substantive clean air policies by 2025 that address the unique causes of pollution in their cities; and publicly report progress on achieving these goals.
If the 35 signatories reduce annual average PM2.5 levels to WHO guidelines (10 ug/m3) it could avoid 40,000 deaths each year.
Asheer Kandhari, a young leader at C40 Mayors Summit and Class 10 student from New Delhi, said: "I'm supposed to attend physical fitness class in the school playground every morning, when pollution levels are supposed to be the worst. Health advisories and doctors recommend that people avoid morning walks when levels are peaking."
"This has affected my health and productivity at school, while political leaders are only talking about air pollution, levels every year still reach above 900 every winter. Who is responsible for my health and future?"
"The deteriorating air quality in cities and its impact on public health is an area of growing concern for city authorities," said Anil Kumar, Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.