RMLA Webinar : World Air Quality 2022


Everybody needs to breathe so everybody should be pleased to hear that 2021 was a big year for air quality. In September 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new global air quality guidelines (AQG). In October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared clean air to be a fundamental human right.

The right to breathe clean air seems pretty basic as a human right, even if it is a little late in arriving. The science is compelling; WHO estimates that air pollution is responsible for around 7 million cases of ‘premature mortality’ each year. That is, people die who would not otherwise have died.

To address this sorry state of affairs the concentration limits in the new WHO AQG are, with one exception, significantly reduced from the previous guidelines published in 2005. WHO has set concentrations limits at levels that are very, very low, close to what we air quality experts call ‘background’ levels. Meeting the 2021 WHO AQG will require big reductions in emissions from homes, cars and industry. This may sound familiar and yes, there are some win-wins to be found in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (which are not the same pollutants, but often come from the same sources).

There is also the rather startling statement from WHO that the new guidelines should apply indoors, as well as outdoors. From a legal perspective, this represents a paradigm shift for New Zealand and one for which we’re not remotely prepared.

This webinar introduces the science behind the new WHO global air guidelines, discusses air quality in the New Zealand context and asks some big questions for New Zealand’s legal fraternity.

Bio: Lou Wickham

Lou is a Director and Senior Air Quality Specialist with Emission Impossible Ltd, an air quality consultancy in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland. Lou has a bachelor’s degree in chemical and materials engineering, a master’s degree in environmental law and more than 25 years’ experience working on air quality issues for both private and public sectors in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Lou is an experienced presenter and has acted as an expert witness in the Environment Court as well as being a Commissioner and Chair in hearings under the Resource Management Act 1991. In 2020 Lou was re-appointed for a third term on Auckland Council’s panel of independent RMA commissioners.

Please Note:  The link to view the webinar will be sent out on the morning of the event (13 July).

When: 13 July 2022

Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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