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Climate change

Five steps to a pollution-free planet with a green and growing economy

Erik Solheim says that only through action at the governmental, business and individual level can we achieve a clean and prosperous environment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 7:29pm

For too long, prosperity or the environment has been seen as a trade-off, and pollution an unwelcome cost of industry.

But global trends show this is no longer the case, as the drive for a pollution-free planet provides an opportunity to innovate.

The unfolding energy revolution is a game changer. Falling costs from renewables like wind and solar power mean countries moving away from fossil fuels will reap economic and environmental benefits, with faster transport networks and flexible power grids.

We now need to focus on intensifying and accelerating these trends to protect the environment, combat climate change and curb pollution. There are five critical pieces to this puzzle.

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We need political leadership and partnerships. A global compact on pollution would ensure sustained engagement at the highest level and make prevention a priority. It would also encourage policymakers and the private sector to integrate prevention into national and local planning, development, and business and finance strategies.

We need the right policies. Environmental governance needs strengthening – with targeted action on “hard-hitting” pollutants through risk assessment and enhanced implementation of environmental legislation, including multilateral environmental agreements.

We need a new approach to managing our lives and economies, including promotion of sustainable consumption and production through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes.

We need to invest big. Finance and investment in low-carbon opportunities, cleaner production and consumption drive innovation. We need to fund research, plus pollution monitoring, management and control.

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We need advocacy for action. Citizens need to be informed and inspired to reduce their own pollution footprint and advocate for commitments.

Science delivers advances in our understanding of pollution’s impact. Citizens are more aware of how pollution affects their lives. Experts and businesses develop technology to tackle these problems at all levels. Financiers are increasingly ready to support them, while international bodies and forums, including the UN, stand ready to turn this momentum into firm action.

My report to the United Nations Environment Assembly examines the dimensions of pollution and identifies a way forward. I invite our partners in government, business and civil society, as well as global citizens, to consider the report, act on its recommendations, and join us to beat pollution.

Erik Solheim is head of UN Environment