The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) called for international cooperation to continue the fight against air pollution.

In report released last week, UNECE said air quality has improved significantly in North America and Europe over the past three decades largely as a result of the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Air Convention) and European Union air pollution policies. ‘Towards Cleaner Air’ also highlighted the fact that average life expectancy in Europe has increased by one year and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year have been avoided as a result of policy-driven reductions in air pollution. In addition, soil acidification has been halted in most parts of Europe, and fish stocks are recovering in freshwaters where they had largely disappeared.

However, despite these successes, the report noted that air pollution was still the primary environmental cause of premature death in Europe, notably due to high concentrations of fine particles and ground-level ozone, and ecosystem biodiversity was threatened due to nitrogen deposition.

UNECE Executive Director Christian Friis Bach said the new evidence clearly shows combating air pollution requires international cooperation because a “significant part of the pollution that we face comes from other countries.”

Bach said, “People believe that, if we tackle air pollution we will curb our economic growth, but that’s wrong because the cost of air pollution has to be counted in hundreds of billions. We can save money, we can improve technology. We can get clean air and healthy citizens. And it’s a very good deal.”