Press Release13 Mar 2019

IAAF Air Quality Project presented at United Nations Environment Assembly


Sean Khan (UNEP), Stefanie Holtzwarth (UN Habitat), Nathan Palvoic (STI) and Miguel Escribano (Kunak) at the Science Policy Business Forum in Nairobi (© UNEP)

The IAAF’s innovative Air Quality Project was one of the key talking points at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi this week.

The project also featured on the second day of the Science Policy Business Forum held on 10 March prior to the opening of UNEA. It attracted stakeholders from the private sector, donor organisations, civil society and member states.

UNEA is a biennial gathering of high level delegates from heads of state and ministers of environment to stakeholders in environmental issues. Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production is the theme at this year’s assembly, which opened on 11 March and runs until 15 March with the slogan “think beyond, live within” and hashtag #solvedifferent.

The Air Quality Project, which is being run in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), aims to address the issue of air pollution which contributes to 7 million deaths annually worldwide.

By creating an air quality monitoring network across 1000 athletics tracks around the world – which is being deployed by Spain-based Kunak Technologies – the UNEP/IAAF partnership provides first-hand opportunity to countries with limited air quality data to learn how low-cost sensors can provide evidence to improve the health of its citizens and future athletes. It also demonstrates an innovative approach to solving the air pollution problem.

Representatives from UNEP and Kunak explained how the UNEP/ IAAF Clean Air partnership supports the UN Environment’s long-term programme to build the capacity of local governments to manage air pollution in urban area.

Miguel Escribano, Business Development Manager at Kunak, showed participants at UNEA real time data from the IAAF’s air quality pilot at Stade Louis II in Monaco, Addis Ababa National Stadium in Ethiopia, Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre in Australia, and the Mexican Olympic Sports Center in Mexico, and described the collaboration between UNEP and the IAAF at the Science-Policy-Business Forum. The IAAF will soon be installing air quality devices in Asia and South America.

Professor Fekadu Beyene and HE Amedi Camara, Ministers of Environment from Ethiopia and Mauritania respectively, were among the government representatives that engaged directly with the UN environment platform demonstration. Stakeholders from Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Morocco and South Africa also showed a keen interest.

“The GEMS Air programme and partnerships like the IAAF collaboration will help UN Environment to fill the data gap in countries where there is limited real-time air quality data,” said Sean Khan from UNEP’s Global Environmental Monitoring System Unit. “The IAAF partnership provides practical insight into the use of low-cost sensors, so it can be the first step to build capacity at city level networks, bringing together science for policy; using evidence-based air quality assessments to develop better urban policies.”