Europe celebrates 35 years of cleaner air and human well-being

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Air Pollution Romania. UN Photo/R Marklin

For the past 35 years, European countries have made great strides in reducing air pollution by working together.

That's according to Krzysztof Olendrzynski, Environmental Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

UNECE is behind an "Air Convention" which grew out of an awareness that the ecological and human health problems throughout the region were caused by air pollution.

Major air pollutants are for example, sulphur dioxide, which has the "rotten egg smell" that is released by some factories.

Also nitrogen dioxide which forms from fuels like coal, oil, gas or diesel and chemical compounds like benzene used to make dyes, detergents or pesticides.

Mr Olendrzynski explains the reasons behind the success.

"The air pollution does not respect national borders, that means that whatever is emitted through the atmosphere it travels for long distances, thousands of kilometres, thousands of miles and the affects the environment and people elsewhere. So in order to address the issue successfully you need to reduce emissions throughout the whole region like a continent."

Since 1979 the Convention has provided a framework for scientific collaboration and policy negotiation across the region.

It has been signed by 51 of the 56 UNECE Member States and has created the first international legally binding instrument to deal with problems of air pollution on a broad regional basis.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’41″

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