South Africa’s national science academy has joined its counterparts in calling for global action on air pollution, which is a major contributor to disease and climate change.

Air pollution cut global life expectancy by 20 months in 2016, surpassing the impact of smoking.

This is according to the State of Global Air Report, published by the US Health Effects Institute.

“The health impacts of air pollution are enormous; it can harm health across the entire lifespan, causing disease, disability and death. It is time to move the issue much higher up in the policy agenda,” Himla Soodyall , Academy of Science of SA (Assaf) executive officer told Business Day.

The science academies delivered a statement to senior UN representatives and high-level diplomats from the four countries at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday and called for a new global compact between business, governments and citizens to reduce air pollution.

The statement calls for emissions controls in all countries and proper monitoring of key pollutants.

The science academies called for greater public and private sector investments in measures to combat air pollution, noting that this would not only benefit human health but also help reduce global warming.

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