Following pressure from 29,674 children worldwide at the “Freedom to breathe: A Child’s Right to Clean Air” virtual event, Vice-Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Philip D. Jaffé, confirmed that clean air will now be elevated within the UNCRC through the forthcoming General Comment no.26.
Access to clean air has recently been recognized as a human right but is not among children’s rights defined by the UNCRC. Philip D. Jaffé responded to the calls from children at the virtual event stating, “We need an air quality revolution…It would take 20 years to change the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Therefore, Prof. Jaffé added that the Committee of the UNCRC will work on including every child’s right to clean air in the upcoming General Comment (no.26), further adding, “I will do my part and I will do everything I can with my colleagues to support you in what you are doing.”
Over the last six months children from the US, UK, China and India have campaigned for their right to clean air through the Freedom to breathe campaign. The campaign, which is run by Blueair in partnership with Global Action Plan, the Coalition for Clean Air, Centre for Environment Education and Safekids Worldwide, has now collected 29,674 calls from children across the globe.
“Blueair was founded on the belief that business should be a force for good in society. For the last 25 years, we have been fighting for every child’s right to breathe clean air,” says Sara Alsén, Chief Purpose Officer at Blueair. “I’m so proud that the UN acknowledged our fight and recognized that clean air, just like clean water, should be the right of every child.”
In the US, Blueair partnered with California-based Coalition for Clean Air (CCA) to execute an education program that teaches children about the importance of healthy air and how they can advocate to improve the air they breathe. From workshops to Zoom meetings to petitions supporting the effort, the Freedom to breathe campaign drove home the importance of clean air for thousands of children across the country.
This program was rolled out alongside continued product donations by Blueair in the US throughout the year, with nearly 3,000 air purifiers donated in 2021 to date as part of its commitment to giving back to schools in areas affected by poor air quality and lower economic wealth. In California, this resulted in nearly 4,500 students engaged in the program indicating their desire to include “clean air” among the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, teachers and educators representing 14,856 students signed CCA’s petition asking the UN to include “clean air” among the Rights of the Child.
“Despite our progress, Los Angeles has the smoggiest air in the nation, and it is our youth who suffer the most,” says Joseph Lyou, President & CEO of CCA. “We are proud to be a part of this important program in support of our mission to protect public health, improve air quality and prevent climate change, and are thrilled that the UN has now acknowledged this right for children across the globe.”
Nine out of ten children around the world are breathing in toxins that exceed safe levels and can interfere with critical stages of organ development in a child. Children are more physiologically vulnerable to air pollution based on their smaller size and have greater exposure to air pollution based on their faster breathing rate, per unit of body weight, compared to adults. By 2050, UNICEF predicts that air pollution will become the leading cause of child mortality and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2016 alone, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
The Freedom to breathe campaign hopes the UNCRC’s acknowledgement will lead to clean air becoming more anchored within the UN system, providing authoritative guidance for States that will accelerate action on air pollution globally. The campaign will be sending a submission through the public consultation on General Comment 26 (children’s rights and the environment, including climate change).
To learn more about the Freedom to breathe campaign and why children everywhere deserve the right to clean air, visit: https://www.blueair.com/us/freedomtobreathe.html.
Blueair is a world-leading producer of air purification solutions for home and professional use. Founded in Sweden, Blueair delivers innovative, best-in-class, energy efficient products that are sold in over 60 countries around the world. Blueair is part of the Unilever family of brands. www.blueair.com
About Global Action Plan
Global Action Plan is a charity that helps people live more sustainable lives by connecting what is good for us and good for the planet. We’re the people behind Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest air pollution campaign. We work with people on bringing about compassion not consumerism and increasing wellbeing – what is good for us is often greener too. And we bring business and young people together to work on building a sustainable future. Helping young people develop the skills and knowledge to tackle environmental issues is good for the planet and everyone’s future too.
About Coalition for Clean Air
Coalition for Clean Air is a California non-profit organization that protects public health, improves air quality and prevents climate change.