The United Nations conference has warned that humans are poisoning themselves and their environment at an alarming rate, with ocean, soil and air pollution now the leading cause of death.
Calling for swift and united action from governments, businesses and individual consumers, the envoys underscored that nine million people die from pollution each year, one in six deaths globally.
"Pollution is the leading cause of death on the planet and we have to overcome it," said the head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Erik Solheim at the third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya.
The French news agency AFP reports the annual tally, nearly seven million people succumb from inhaling airborne toxins, automobile exhaust, factory emissions, and cooking indoors with wood and charcoal, according to a recent report by the medical journal. The Lancet.
Lead in paint causes brain damage in more than half a million children each year.
However, as the human cost continues to rise, so does garbage.
"More than 80 percent of the world's wastewater is released into the environment without treatment," Ligia Noronha, director of UNEP's economics division, told reporters at the assembly.
"About 50 million tons of electronic waste is produced each year."
The UNEA is the main forum for decision-making on issues related to the natural environment, with representation from the 193 member countries of the UN.
AFP reports that this week it brought together environment ministers and deputies from more than 100 countries in the Kenyan capital to change the wording of a world political declaration entitled: Towards a pollution-free planet.
The pact will commit the member countries of the UN to limit the incrustations of humanity on the planet with chemicals, non-biodegradable garbage and toxic smoke.
Ministers are also negotiating a series of specific anti-pollution resolutions to limit the amount of fish-catching plastic that finds its way into the ocean, for example, and to stop the use of lead in paint.
The recent Lancet report said that the wellness costs associated with pollution, including medical costs, were nearly $ 5 trillion a year, more than six percent of global economic output.
“It is not just a health problem. It is not only a productivity issue and implications for the economy, it is also a human rights issue, ”said Ms. Noronha.
"People have the right to live in clean environments."
The president of the UNEA meeting, Costa Rica's environment minister Edgar Gutiérrez, said he had urged government representatives to put narrow national interests aside and look beyond contentious issues to find “a common ground ”.
"Considering the whole, we have done a very bad job taking care of our environment," he said.
"And the worst part of this is that we now have very little room for mistakes."
The assembly brought together more than 4,500 participants, including representatives of the government, NGOs, scientists and businessmen.
In addition to outright poisoning, pollution causes a host of deadly ailments including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
EcoNews (in English)