Londoners, don’t breathe too deep: The fight for a clean air is far from over

Despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, results show that pollution is, in fact, increasing. With the UN Climate Change Conference just around the corner, Voice of London evaluates why the efforts in tackling climate change are having so little effect.

It is a sad time for the greens. This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that 44 cities in the UK have pollutions levels so high it is dangerous for people to breath.

According to the WHO, exposure to dirty particles should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air. London air presented 15 micrograms. The situation is indeed worrying as pollution in London is estimated to be responsible for 9,000 deaths every year.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been working on strategies to reduce vehicle emissions in the city. On Friday, 3, the Mayor launched the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), a strategy aiming to reduce the number of polluting cars in Central London.

“I am pleased to confirm that from 8th April 2019 – 17 months earlier than planned – stricter standards for diesel vehicles will apply 24/7 across central London. This builds on the success of the T-Charge and is part of my comprehensive plan to clean London’s air.” said the Mayor in a announcement.

London is following the global engagement in tackling climate change. One of the most assertive efforts is the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement came into force in 2015 and its main objective of is to stop global warming, keeping global temperature rise this century ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.’

The bad news is that, despite international commitment in green policies, global atmospheric CO2 hit record levels in 2016.

The news is particularly bothersome for the United Nations, as it shows its effort to curb climate change are not exactly useful just days before its Climate Conference.

The UN Climate Conference and Conference of Parties (COP 23) starts on Monday, 6, in Germany, and may the most positive atmosphere. The Parties will meet to discuss actions taken under the Paris Agreement – and hopefully reassess the effectiveness of their strategies.

Initiatives on national levels are being taken to meet the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreements. The European Commission and China have announced plans to cut greenhouse gases emissions by introducing proposals on zero-emissions vehicles, such as electric cars.

But, if there is so much effort being done why are emissions still hitting record high levels?



It’s not about the cities, it’s about the forests 

Efforts to reduce emissions alone are not enough to stop global warming. The answer, environmentalists and experts say, is in forest preservation.

And not much has been done in this regard.

A report from Burness showed that out of a $167 billion international investment in reducing carbon emissions since 2010, only 2% -$3.6 billion – was destined to reducing deforestation.

Yet, forests can provide as much as 30% of climate change mitigation needed to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.

“Forests hold so much potential in the effort to limit climate change, and yet there’s a seemingly endless supply of money to help tear them down.” Said Charlotte Streck, co-founder and head of Climate Focus. “We need to turn the equation around and invest much more in keeping forests standing than in activities that destroy them.”

Streck made reference to policies that promote economic development are one of the main agents hurting forest preservation. Soy cultivation, forestry and mining are among the main causes of deforestation in the developing world – home of the biggest forests in the world.

The result is counter-effective. Governments and donors are investing 39 times more in promoting agriculture and land-intensive development than in stopping deforestation, therefore, pollution reduction results are limited.


The Guardians of the Forest

Credit: Fabio Machado


If even organisations such as the UN are getting the solution to climate change wrong, who could be leading a green revolution? Native communities.

That’s the message indigenous leaders spread in a bus tour around Europe before meeting with authorities at the Climate Change Conference.

A report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shows that less than 10 percent of international climate change finance reaches local level.

Yet, native communities are the most affected by development activities and deforestation.

In order to spread the message of the important role of local communities in preserving the forests, indigenous leaders from Latin America and Indonesia travelled around six European cities before arriving this weekend in Bonn, for the UN Climate Conference.

The ‘Guardians of the Forests’, as they call themselves, are pledging more international attention to local communities and their role in preserving forests.

The Guardians also asked for protection of human rights. In 2016 we witnessed the record murdering rate of 200 environmentalists and land rights activists, 40% of them were indigenous.

In their journey they were joined by experts from organisations such as Global Witness and Climate Focus, who were calling for more transparency in tracking international finance destined to the global south, and corporate accountability.

In an interview to the Voice of London, Sonia Guajajara, a vocal Brazilian indigenous leader, has said the support from European authorities is vital for forest preservation because ‘Europe was the continent that most destroyed and exploited their land and resources’ and its support to the indigenous and environmentral cause is a way of paying back their debt’.

Guajajara also says indigenous communities have a healthy and centenary relationship with nature, and because of their ‘sustainable lifestyle’, they are the best people to keep forests alive and the air cleaner.

‘Crime against humanity’ See more from the Guardians of the Forests

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Words: Pamela Machado | Subbing: Adi Cohen

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