Science informs policymaking at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly webinar on pollution and public health

Pollution webinar Jos Lelieveld 250521Jos Lelieveld's presentationCOPENHAGEN, 25 May 2021 – Representatives of the scientific community spoke to OSCE parliamentarians today about the impacts of environmental pollution on health and climate change, stressing the need for more intense and targeted collaboration between countries in different areas of the world. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly must facilitate and promote a strong science-policy interface on these complex issues, it was stressed, so that future environmental and development policies in the OSCE region will be informed by the latest scientific findings.

The focus of the Parliamentary Web Dialogue, entitled “Framing the Environmental Security – Public Health Nexus,” was on the threat to global security that environmental degradation represents and how it impacts socio-economic dynamics. In order to better inform policymaking, the parliamentarians explored the interconnectedness between the environment and security, as well as climate change and public health.

Emphasizing the urgent need for international action, participants noted that air pollution is the largest environmental cause of multiple diseases and premature deaths, especially among children, people with certain medical conditions, and the elderly. World Health Organization data indicates that 90 per cent of people breathe air containing pollutants, participants said, with recent evidence showing that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for almost one in five global deaths in 2018.

Pollution webinar DB 250521Doris BarnettOpening today’s event was OSCE PA economic and environmental committee Chair Doris Barnett (Germany), who stressed that pollution is not only a contributor to climate change, but is also a contributing factor to COVID-19 infections. “This should not come as a surprise,” she said. “We have been aware of the detrimental effects of environmental degradation – and particularly of air pollution – on citizens’ health for quite some time.”

Therefore, Barnett said, it is important to develop timely and well-calibrated environmental protection policies and innovative development approaches based on the latest scientific evidence and international standards.

Toward this end, parliamentarians heard from a number of recognized experts in the field. Speakers included Maria Neira, Director of the Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department at the World Health Organization; Veronica Manfredi, Director for Quality of Life at the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission; Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor in Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University; John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Population Health at the Stanford Prevention Centre; and Prisco Piscitelli, Vice-President of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine.

The speakers emphasized that particularly within the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the problem of air pollution must be prioritized as a public health emergency. As it affects the risk of contagion and the severity of the disease, policymakers should recognize the urgent need to combat environmental degradation and pollution in order to ensure the protection of the health and safety of citizens, participants said.

Pollution webinar Maria Neira 250521Maria NeiraIn the discussion, parliamentarians raised issues related to the need for focusing on providing full funding to green programmes and to maintain a level-headed approach to addressing the crisis. One of the main challenges is how to prioritize the most pertinent issues, it was emphasized, and by addressing pollution it is also possible to pursue an easy-to-implement solution to climate change. These are synergies that need to be better understood and built upon in policymaking work.

OSCE PA economic and environmental committee Rapporteur Elona Gjebrea Hoxha (Albania) underlined that the need for well-informed and coherent strategies is greater than ever. “We should seize this opportunity to address our growing development needs more responsibly,” she said. “What we need is a more balanced and forward-looking development strategy – a strategy that clearly responds to the environmental concerns of current and future generations of citizens.”

Hoxha highlighted several areas in particular as important for developing a model in which economic, social, environmental, and public health factors are duly considered and balanced: supporting the low-carbon energy transition through clean transportation, promoting “green finance” and a more responsible economy, and harnessing the opportunities offered by technological innovations to support the green transition.

OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella also spoke at today’s event, commending the leadership of the OSCE PA General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment for pioneering a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to environmental security. He highlighted the upcoming OSCE PA Remote Annual Session as an opportunity to continue these discussions.

To watch the webinar, please click here.



Нэт Пэрри

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