The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) launched an initiative to strengthen air quality management in Addis Ababa. The Megacity Partnership brings together the Addis Ababa Environmental Protection Authority, and the Ethiopia Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in collaboration with a UN Environment demonstration project on air quality management. The initiative will raise awareness about the health and economic impacts of air pollution, assess the challenges facing air quality in Addis Ababa, and support local capacity to develop and implement an air quality management plan (AQMP) by 2020.
At the launch ceremony U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Troy Fitrell framed the importance of the project, saying “Clean air is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Quite literally, we can’t live without it.”
Globally, air pollution is the largest single environmental health risk. The estimates vary, due to sparse health and air pollution data, however, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that over 45,000 African children under the age of 5 die annually due to air pollution, one of the highest regional child mortality rates in the world. In Ethiopia, the Global Burden of Disease estimates that air pollution is the number 2 risk factor for death and number 3 risk factor for disability.
Mr. Fitrell also highlighted the economic importance of healthy air, “The United States believes that an investment in improving Ethiopia’s air quality is an investment worth making. In part, that’s because of the undeniable link between a healthy population and a healthy economy. In the U.S. we know from our own experience that the benefits of environmental standards can far outweigh the costs and through this project, we want to share those lessons with Ethiopia. Since 1970, U.S. emissions of six key air pollutants dropped by an average of 70 percent, while our GDP grew by 246 percent. This is not a coincidence. We made those gains through sensible policy and more efficient technology. Moreover, we have enjoyed greater productivity due to improved health.” Estimates of the economic cost to Africa of indoor and outdoor air pollution approach $250 billion annually.
The USEPA designed the Megacity Partnership to support governments to develop integrated air quality action plans that reduce harmful air pollution and improve public health. The Partnership was piloted in Accra, Ghana, with the approaches, tools and strategies applied there offering a model for other cities in Africa. Likewise, the project Addis will deliver successful practices and policies that be applied to other cities and Ethiopia and throughout the world.