Category: Environment

JAMAICA’S Professor Michael Taylor has made the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team, tasked to deliver what is a vital report for the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), in the fight against global climate change.

Taylor was invited to serve as one of three coordinating lead authors for the third chapter of a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius as a global greenhouse gas emissions target.

The IPCC was mandated to produce that report, largely through lobby efforts led over years by SIDS, in the race to curtail emissions that fuel the changing climate that could devastate them.

“Chapter three merges what happens with the physical impacts of climate change, like changes in temperature, rainfall, and so on, with the impacts on ecosystems, natural systems and on human beings,” Taylor, a celebrated local physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

“It is actually the first time they are merging those two things in one chapter. Normally, it would be Working Group I (WGI) looking at the physical side and WGII on the physical impact. Chapter three now will look at both the scientific basis for 1.5 and what are the impacts on managed systems as well as human beings,” he added.

Taylor is joined by two other coordinating lead authors and a team of 20 lead authors to deliver that chapter.

“We will also coop contributing authors with special expertise as needed to lead the authorship of that chapter,” noted the head of the Physics Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Taylor’s research interests include understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change.

Quizzed as to his feeling on being asked to serve, the scientist said: “It is a real honour; I appreciate the honour.

“It is not just an honour for me personally, but also for Caribbean science that it is being recognised in such a way. But it is an overwhelming task that is being asked so I also feel extremely overwhelmed but extremely grateful for the recognition,” he added.

 

GLOBAL RESPONSE

 

The historic Paris Agreement, which charts the course for the global response to climate change, looks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

The inclusion of 1.5 was hard-fought-for by Caribbean and other SIDS aided by the regional campaign dubbed “1.5 To Stay Alive”.

The campaign run primarily in the lead-up to and during the 2015 climate talks in Paris where the agreement was adopted involved regional players such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, communication NGO Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Regional Council of Martinique, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

 

SPECIAL INTEREST

 

Among other things, it saw the establishment of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges all the while calling for the holding of temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A theme song the collaborative effort of Caribbean artistes, including Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education’s singer Aaron Silk was also released.

“The 1.5 is a kind of threshold of viability for small islands going into the future. So this report, I think, the small islands have a special interest in because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case,” Taylor said of the review work to be done in the coming months.

“And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. This is the report that is kind of the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement,” he added.

Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen, who was recognised for his own contributions to climate research through the IPCC, had high praise for Taylor.

“Professor Taylor is an excellent person to lead the project and I have every confidence in him,” said Chen, a mentor to the professor, whom he taught at university and who succeeded him as head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.

“I was very glad for him. He had asked me what I thought and I told him, ‘go for it’. It puts the Caribbean on the map that they should be for the 1.5 project. This is sort of a late registration of that fact,” he added.

Gleaner

JAMAICA HAS ratified the historic international climate change deal, dubbed the Paris Agreement, which was reached in France in 2015, following years of wrangling among countries over what its provisions should be.

This, as the world looks to combat the changing climate that threatens, through sea level rise, extreme weather events, increasing temperatures and associated impacts, to erode economies and jeopardise lives.

“The instrument was signed by the minister of foreign affairs (Kamina Johnson Smith) on the 30th of March and the document sent off to New York for deposit at the United Nations,” UnaMay Gordon, principal director of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, told The Gleaner Tuesday.

“It was deposited on the 10th of April. Therefore, for Jamaica, the agreement will enter into force on the 10th of May, 2017,” she added.

Jamaica’s ratification comes close to a year after its participation at the high-level signature ceremony in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The agreement, meanwhile, aims to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” through a number of actions.

Included among them is “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

The island joins other CARICOM members with the exception of Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago who have ratified the agreement.

In responding to the perceived delay in Jamaica’s ratification, Gordon said the island had a process that needed to be gone through.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

“Once the instrument was signed (in New York last year), then we started that process. Jamaica, unlike some other countries, had a process of consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that people understood what we were doing,” she said.

“The document went to the AG (attorney general) for the opinion of the AG. We received the opinion of the AG in October 2016. In the opinion, the AG had given an undertaking that there were only some procedural matters and that Jamaica could proceed to ratify the agreement,” she added.

“But we thought as a division that we should do the consultations. So we had focus groups, individual sit-downs and so on with stakeholders from finance, forestry, energy, etc, to find out if they were in agreement with the AG’s opinion to go ahead, and all of them had no objection,” Gordon said further.

No objections were received up to February this year and a Cabinet submission made.

“Cabinet gave the approval to ratify,” Gordon said. “We are now a full party to the agreement and have to implement at the national level.”

Gleaner

With the expected April 2019 departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union, British Member of Parliament (MP) Dawn Butler has said that the relationship among the UK, Jamaica, and the wider Commonwealth now has added importance, which should result in mutual energy benefits.

The leader of a three-member delegation on a visit to the island to explore renewable energy opportunities, Butler told The Gleaner during an interview at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Wednesday that she was optimistic about connecting with small countries to maximise all available renewable sources.

“At the end of the day, what would satisfy me the most is if the delegation has found ways in which we can collaborate and build sustainable relations with Jamaica that we can carry beyond the 2030 vision, and also if a solution can be discovered to reduce our carbon emissions.”

FINDING INVESTORS

She added: “The drawback to renewable [energy] is finding investors for the initial outlay and technology. What follows is the concern of regaining the money, but in the wider scheme of things, there’s no disadvantage. Non-renewable energy is an international problem, and as global warming gets worse, the effect on islands such as [those in] the Caribbean is devastating.”

Born to two Jamaican parents and MP for Brent Central, the British constituency with the largest number of Jamaicans, Butler further disclosed that Jamaica had not been capitalising on its branding power had outside of solar energy.

“Jamaica has a worldwide brand that other people get rich from and Jamaica hardly benefits. There is other infrastructure that needs to be put in place to ensure consistency of produce and other things Jamaican, but Jamaica has the environment and the human resource to catapult itself to higher heights.”

Butler and the delegation are expected to hold talks on renewable energy with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley prior to their departure tomorrow.

Gleaner

In this November 2, 2016 photo, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley (left) and Chairman of Wigton Windfarm Duane Smith examine solar panels installed at a lab on the wind farm complex in Manchester. Jamaica received special mention in a new global energy report for its renewables programme.
The country saved around US$18 million (J$2.3 billion) in oil imports based on the 80 megawatts of renewable energy projects implemented last year, based on estimates utilising Government data.

Concurrently, the addition of the 80MW of renewable energy saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.

These factors allowed Jamaica to breathe cleaner air and climb in the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). It’s unknown whether these emission savings were converted into carbon credits.

Jamaica improved six spots to 92 worldwide to become a global case study for energy diversification, according to the annual EAPI study produced by the World Economic Forum.

Trading partner and oil producer Trinidad & Tobago inched up one spot to 109, from 110 a year earlier.

The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017 indicated that Jamaica, Mexico and Uruguay, all developing countries, made strides in their energy sector performance since 2009.

In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW.

“[It resulted] in a cut in CO2 emissions of at least 800,000 metric tonnes between 2014 and 2016,” stated the energy ministry in response to Financial Gleaner queries.

“The 80.30MW of renewable energy added to the grid represents a reduction of 413,781 barrels of oil imported per year,” the ministry said via email.

Another 100MW of capacity is expected to be developed by energy investors this year, for which the bidding process is under way, it added.

Jamaica is pressing ahead with its renewable programme even as oil prices remain subdued.

The price of oil averaged US$43.33 for WTI crude and US$43.74 for Brent crude in 2016, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration statistics.

The ministry credited Jamaica’s energy successes to the aggressive implementation of the National Energy Policy – NEP 2009-2030. In ensuring that Jamaica’s energy infrastructure is as efficient, safe and competitive as possible, the NEP has within its plan of action the formulation of a new Electricity Act which provides for and promotes renewables in the energy sector, added the ministry.

The amended electricity law, in effect since 2015, was also a deliverable of the Energy Security Efficiency and Enhancement Project. That programme also oversaw the delivery of the natural gas policy and regulations, and the smart grid road map.

Jamaica appears set to surpass its initial target of 20 per cent renewables by 2030 under the restructuring of its energy mix away from crude. The ministry said the goal has already been reset higher to 30 per cent renewables by 2030.

“All things remaining equal, Jamaica will surpass the ’20 in 30′ target and we are now aiming for ’30 in 30′,” the ministry said.

The energy efficiency programme has so far saved the government $131.5 million, which translates to a 2,768-metric tonne reduction in carbon emissions.

Gleaner

McCaulay: Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored.

Jamaica is shortly to have the benefit of a comprehensive set of guidelines for coastal management and beach restoration, as it faces down a changing climate that puts at risk coastal resources on which it is hugely dependent.

But whether the island will gain the full measure of the anticipated benefits remains to be seen.

“Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored. Even binding requirements are often ignored,” cautioned Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust.

The guidelines – the work of Mott MacDonald and partners – are due out in May, following on a February 22 stakeholder consultation on the document.

According to information out of the World Bank, the guidelines, now in draft, integrate hard infrastructure measures with soft measures like relocation, replanting and beach restoration and nourishment, together with non-structural solutions, including conservation and awareness raising and education.

“The guidelines consist of recommended, non-mandatory control serving as a reference for coastal protection measures,” noted Galina Sotirova, World Bank country manager for Jamaica.

“They will be used to implement and enforce new policies and strengthen those that already exist, thus enhancing disaster risk management, climate resilience and natural resources management along Jamaica’s coastline. This will directly complement the work on building resilience in Jamaica’s coastal areas,” she added.

The recent workshop reportedly saw more than 40 representatives from the public, private, academic and civil society sectors who were able to present questions or otherwise make suggestions on the document.

However, while the guidelines look to be headed in the right direction, McCaulay said Jamaica’s problem has traditionally been “that we continue to permit development that increases our vulnerability to climate change and the degradation of the marine environment”.

DAMAGE CAUSED BY REMOVAL OF SEAGRASSES, MANGROVES

“For example, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) still gives permits for the removal of seagrasses and mangroves, building is still occurring on sand dunes, sewage treatment is still poor in too many cases, resulting in decline in coral reefs, overfishing and fishing in sanctuaries still continue, setback from the high-water mark are insufficient, etc,” the JET boss told The Gleaner.

Added McCaulay: “Although NEPA does require replanting of seagrasses and mangroves, their protection and habitat functions are lost during the many years they take to grow, and in some cases, the replanting has been badly done and unsuccessful. Beaches are maintained by complex processes. If those processes are allowed to be disrupted by development, beaches will be lost.”

The World Bank, meanwhile, is optimistic for a good outcome once the finalised guidelines are delivered.

“We envision NEPA’s adoption of guideline recommendations and incorporate them into beach licence applications. The guidelines will also be readily available to all stakeholders working in coastal areas – Government, academia, NGOs, private sector, etc – resulting in the rehabilitation of degraded coastal ecosystems and reduction of climate-related impacts on that coastal sites,” she said in her address to the workshop.

“Finally, we expect that the innovative approaches recommended in the guidelines will promote the introduction of nature-based and hybrid coastal protection measures; essential to minimising the impacts of coastal hazards to secure a healthier environment, essential for Jamaica’s coastal economy and livelihoods in the tourism and fishing industries.”

The guidelines are being developed through the ACP-EU Grant ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience in Jamaica’s Development Planning Process’ funded by the ACP-EU.

Gleaner

From left: Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connecting the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

As the debate intensifies over the possible rate increases which could face Jamaicans as more and more customers leave the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) grid, there are calls for a collaborative approach to the issue.

Manager of the Grid Performance Department at the JPS, Lincoy Small, says the various stakeholders must engage in dialogue to find an approach to provide the cheapest source of electricity to Jamaicans.

According to Small, it cannot be a matter of either renewable energy (RE) or staying on the JPS grid but a combination of the two.

“JPS is not telling people that renewable is not the way to go, because JPS even operates renewable facilities, but the key thing is to get them (grid and RE) working together in tandem to come up with the best synergy of what is best for the customer and what is best for the country,” said Small.

His comments came as Robert Wright, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, told The Sunday Gleaner he has no desire for Jamaicans to leave the JPS grid.

Grid Stability

Wright said he strongly believes RE should be maximised and not just limited to large systems scattered across the island, but smaller systems distributed right across the country.

“When you have these smaller systems spread across the country it provides for better grid stability, and also it allows for more people to participate in clean energy as opposed to simply relying on large solar farms,” said Wright.

But Small said, based on experience due to the unpredictability of RE, the JPS sometimes has to resort to load shedding when customers jump on and off the grid.

He reiterated that JPS’s customers could face additional cost if the impact of RE on the grid is not handled carefully.

“So we are accepting solar power from the customers and as soon as something happens it drops off, and does so much quicker than the grid can even respond on some of those occasions, and as a result you have to be running expensive machines that are quicker to deal with those sun drop-offs or have to shed people’s light,” argued Small.

“And if you run these expensive machines or shed people’s light it means the overall cost to run the grid is going to be absorbed by the customer; you are going to have to pay for a more expensive energy source.”

The JPS executive said the company is actively seeking to incorporate new technology to deal with the loss of the intermittent renewable resources.

But Wright argued that the good news for Jamaicans is that the cost of RE is declining rapidly, enabling it to compete with traditional sources of energy.

“A system that a typical household would need in Jamaica two years ago would cost $1 million; that same system today cost $500,000, so we have seen a significant drop in prices,” said Wright.

“Also what is revolutionary is that the cost of batteries has gone down a lot, so now, even more than before, we will be able to offer that to residential customers at an affordable price.

“What is becoming more available now are systems called micro-inverters, and these allow you to install a very simple rooftop system which is cheaper, faster to install and is more appropriate for affordable housing developments, and so on.”

Batteries Expensive

But Small countered that with solar and wind on average only available for 20 and 35 per cent of the day, respectively, and the cost of buying and replacing batteries being expensive, it might be cheaper for customers to get their power from the JPS grid when RE is not available.

“It (solar) is a good thing to have, but it cannot be operated in isolation, and that is something a lot of people in the solar business not telling their customers,” said Small.

“Because even if you get a panel or a wind turbine and you get the battery, you are going to need a grid to at least charge up that battery for the 80 per cent of the time you are without solar or the 65 per cent of the time you are without wind.

“Plus, you will have to be replacing the battery every two to three years for full value, and batteries cost much more than solar panels.”

Small said the JPS is focused on supplying power as cheaply as possible so persons can take the cheap power from the grid rather than go buy a battery and use the solar power and the wind when it is available.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the utilisation of more RE forms part of the National Energy Policy which sees the country aiming to have 30 per cent RE penetration by 2030.

The country is currently at approximately 10 per cent of the quota, with roughly 300 net billing customers (those who have solar systems which allows them to consume energy and sell surplus) and around 10 larger customers.

Gleaner

Solar Plant

For full article with interview  clips click here

CEO of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, says the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is using scare tactics to keep businesses from leaving the grid and turning to alternative energy.

In a recent interview with the Gleaner newspaper, JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin was quoted as saying that it could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave their grid.

Robinson says could mitigate any losses from clients who’ve switched to alternative energy by running a more efficient operation and doing more to combat theft.

He says JPS is already doing a lot to diversify its own fuel sources to keep energy costs down.

And, Robinson is also criticizing the power company for being hypocritical.

He claims JPS has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.

Nationwide

A field of photovoltaic solar panels providing alternative to the supply from the JPS.

With many local entities turning to solar systems or other renewable systems to reduce their reliance on more expensive energy supplied by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), there is a another indication that persons who remain on the JPS grid could face the consequences.

“We all should be concerned and thoughtful. You don’t want everybody who can afford solar on their roof going off the grid because you would still have to pay for the grid,” CEO of the JPS, Kelly Tomblin, told The Sunday Gleaner during a recent interview.

“How do we take care of a particular company so that we also take care of the whole? How do we find a way to make it affordable for everybody and don’t just let people cherry-pick off the grid?” added Tomblin.

There is no official registry of the amount of renewable energy being utilised on the island, but it is estimated that approximately 35 megawatts of renewable energy has been installed between residential and business customers in recent years.

The target is to have 20 per cent of the country’s energy need being supplied by renewable sources by 2018, moving to 30 per cent by 2030.

Energy Sales

The JPS has recorded four years of decline in energy sales from 2010 to 2014, but has seen a turnaround in the last two years with a two per cent increase in 2015 and a four per cent increase in 2016.

“This could be due to the fact that the cost of electricity to customers has dropped by about 25 per cent over that time (usage tends to increase when the price of electricity is lower),” the JPS said in an emailed response to questions from our news team.

According to the JPS, while it has not yet seen any revenue fallout from renewable energy installations, it recognises “that energy sales could have been higher if some customers had not gone off the grid”.

If more paying customers move to renewables and leave the JPS, the company will be selling to a smaller group of paying customers and could be forced to find alternative ways to remain profitable, which could see electricity cost increase for some customers.

If Top Customers Left

Tomblin admitted that if the company’s top 50 customers were all to leave the grid it would cause a serious problem, but she argued that she is confident that these companies are cognisant of their responsibility to the Jamaican people.

“I am really encouraged, having been in meetings with our top 50 customers, and we are having a lot of meetings with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Energy Committee to say how we can balance personal and country interest,” said Tomblin.

“People who are adding solar are doing so during the day; that is not when Jamaica has a peak. So unless they have storage we have to maintain the same power plant and the same grid, because they come on the JPS system at nights, so they still have to pay and, therefore, it is not that much of an impact to the system,” said Tomblin.

But PSOJ President Paul Scott said the decision to remain on the grid or not is one entities will have to decide based on what is best for their business.

“I am aware of some members who have not come off the grid because of the impact it might have on residential users, while other members have come off the grid,” said Scott, who is a member of the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team.

“So one must make their own economic decision based upon their own situation. Serious companies would take that (impact on residential users) into consideration. I would encourage our members to make decisions that will impact the overall competitiveness of Jamaica. Different industries have different utility requirements and therefore, you can’t generalise.”

According to Scott, the use of the grid will change over time, as PSOJ members, and the private sector as a whole, are always going to calculate the cost of energy as a significant part of their business.

Hands-on training is a key element of Wigton courses. Here (from left) Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connect the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

“BY BEING natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.”

The Wigton Wind Farm team could be drawing inspiration from these words by French fashion designer Christian Dior, as it rolls out a training programme designed to fuel interest and inspire further action on renewable energy in Jamaica.

“It is open to anybody who has an interest. It is open to the general public,” said Sanja Simmonds, engineer and training coordinator at the wind farm, which is located at Rose Hill in Manchester where they began the renewable energy training courses this year.

In January, the farm trained 20 people from across sectors — private and public, and including students as young as 19 years old — in photovoltaics.

“Once you have an interest, it just goes from there,” Simmonds noted. “(The training) is how we can stimulate that interest and have greater interest for the technologies.”

The first training course ran for three days, as will the next one looking at solar thermal energy to be held in April.

The third training course, which will focus on wind energy and hydro, will be held in July. The final one for the year will be held in November and focus on bio-energy.

Up to now, Simmonds said they had been careful to avoid over saturation, with each course having a cap of 15 participants, with provisions for no more than an additional five.

“We don’t want anyone lost. If you have too many people, you may have persons sitting around and not paying attention. What we want is for participants to be fully engaged and hands on,” he said.

“The delivery of the first course was extremely effective, based the feedback we got. The training courses are not for you to you only to come and sit down before a PowerPoint. It is 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practical. So we had participants (from the first training course) actually doing, for example, photovoltaic installation, sizing wires, sizing panels, etc.,” Simmonds added.

The training coordinator explained further the thinking behind Wigton’s efforts.

“Previously Wigton’s tagline was ‘Making renewables a breeze’. Now our tagline is ‘securing Jamaica’s energy future’. To secure the energy future, you could do it in multiple ways. You could do it from a commercial point of view, which is what Wigton is. So we harness clean energy from the wind,” he explained.

“You could also do it from a technical standpoint, which is where we train. So we are trying to create interest in renewable energy and ensure that people have a better appreciation for it. So it is two fold — the commercial side and the technical side,” the engineer added.

The plan, he said, is to have the programme be annual.

“The courses will develop as time goes on. We didn’t want to start it five days and then people wanted three. So we started it on a minimal scale to see what the feedback would be like and the feedback was really exceptional,” Simmonds said.

“So now we will look at expanding the courses. Maybe in the future we will have five days of courses or even two weeks,” he said.

They also have their sights set on having the courses accredited.

“Currently it is just a certificate of participation (that participants receive), but as we go along, we are trying to figure out how we can get the courses certified,” Simmonds noted.

He was, however, quick to emphacise: “We are not trying to compete against the other institutions providing the training. What we are trying to do is stimulate the interested among the general public and then grow that interest.”

“When we talk about the energy policy, one of the core parts of it is to increase renewable energy penetration into the grid. If you are to do so, you have to make people aware of the type of the technologies that you are pushing,” he added.

Gleaner

Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.
The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children 1 month to 5 years old.
One new report highlights that the most common causes of child death are preventable through interventions already available to the communities most affected. These causes are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, which can be prevented using insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases — such as asthma — for the rest of their lives, one report states.
The global body also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.
More than 90% of the world’s population is thought to breathe air that violates quality guidelines set by the WHO.
The reports further list ways in which these risk factors can be removed to prevent disease and death.
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children.”
The growth of electronic and electrical waste is also a concern, according to the report. If not disposed of correctly, waste can expose children to toxins that can harm intelligence and cause attention deficits, lung damage and cancer.
Also among the fears: an increasing risk of climate change, due to rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, boosting pollen growth and possibly asthma. An estimated 44% of asthma cases among children worldwide are thought to be related to environmental exposures, the reports say.
In addition to highlighting the burden borne by young children, the new reports suggest ways in which risk factors — and therefore death rates — can be reduced.
These include reducing air pollution, improving access to clean water and sanitation, protecting pregnant women from secondhand smoke and building safer environments in order to reduce accidents and injuries.
“Both indoor and outdoor air pollution have an important effect on the health and development of children, and not just in the stereotypical ‘polluted cities’ context but also for very poor rural families who cook indoors,” said Joy Lawn, professor of maternal reproductive and child health epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Clean water is taken for granted by families in high-income countries, and yet those children in the hottest climates, facing the greatest risks of infectious diseases, are the very ones with least access to clean water.”
But Lawn added that pollution is not the only risk factor when it comes to child mortality.
“We also need to be careful in attributing these deaths just to dirty water or pollution,” she said. “To prevent deaths from pneumonia, we also need vaccines and antibiotics; from malaria, we also need bed nets and anti-malarials. It Is not just about pollution.”
Other potential solutions mentioned in the reports are removing mould and pests from housing, removing lead paint, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities. Safe management of industrial waste by industries is also highlighted, along with stopping the use of hazardous pesticides and child labor in agriculture.
The report “highlights the scale of the problem of how environmental pollution affects the health of children across the globe,” said John Holloway, professor of allergy and respiratory genetics at the University of Southampton. Holloway recently authored a report on the lifelong impact of air pollution.
“We must also remember that it is not just the acute effects of pollution on children’s health mentioned in the report that we need to be concerned about, it is also the potential long-term effects of exposure to pollutants in early life that can have lifelong effects on health and well-being,” he said.
Holloway also stressed that this is not a concern solely for developing countries. “Exposures such as air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke affects the health of children in developed countries such as the UK as well,” he said.
But, like the WHO, he also stressed that things can be done to help solve the problem and said authorities and individuals should act now — as well as think long-term — to protect the health of future generations.
“We all have a responsibility for reducing environmental pollution,” he said. “This is going to require changes in society such as better monitoring of pollution and taking into account the true long-term economic cost of pollution when assessing the cost of measures to reduce environmental pollution.”
 u