Student Launches Global Clean Air Campaign at United Nations

Pedro Piqueras was one of five students out of hundreds who applied who was selected to launch a campaign at the United Nations

Pedro Piqueras in conference room speaking to audience.

Pedro Piqueras launches his global clean air campaign during the Millennium Campus Conference at the United Nations in New York City, Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/AP

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A University of California, Riverside engineering graduate student has been selected as one of five students out of hundreds who applied to launch a global campaign this month during a student conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Pedro Piqueras, a chemical and environmental engineering Ph.D. student at the Bourns College of Engineering, won in the Millennium Health Prize category for his plan to launch a global campaign to make safe air a basic human right.

He launched his campaign at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, a program of the Millennium Campus Network, from Aug. 11 to 15 at the United Nations headquarters. It was attended by students and politicians from more than 50 nations.

Other winning students launched campaigns in the categories of peace, oceans, equality and youth. Piqueras and the four other student delegates were selected from 400 submissions.

At the conference, Piqueras gave a presentation about his campaign, called fAIR4all, and those in attendance were able to sign on to join the campaign.

Pedro Piqueras standing outside the United Nations

Pedro Piqueras outside the United Nations before launching his global clean air campaign during the Millennium Campus Conference at the United Nations in New York City, Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/AP

The basics of the campaign are to empower the conference attendees to take action, especially in developing countries, and mobilize global citizens to secure safe air all parts of the world.

The end goal of the campaign is to establish clean air as a basic human right and to implement it within the international pantheon of essential public health services akin to clean water, vaccinations, family planning and primary care.

“If the international community recognizes clean air as a basic human right, it would enforce local, corporate, bilateral, and governmental bodies to finance projects and it would encourage private and public-private partnerships in all parts of the world to implement them, especially in developing and marginalized regions where air pollution usually causes the most harm yet where technologies for mitigation are most inaccessible,” Piqueras said. “There is also room for international cooperation, which is imperative, due to the global nature of air.”

According to the World Health Organization, seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure in 2012. That is one in eight total global deaths, which makes air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk

Air pollution also relates directly and indirectly to all eight Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations established in 2000, Piqueras said.

Those goals are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

However, according to the Millennium Goals Progress Report in 2014 there has been little to no progress made in the area of air pollution.

A native of Spain, Piqueras graduated from California Baptist University before enrolling at UC Riverside in 2013. He is conducting air pollution research with Akua Asa-Awuku, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering who does research at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology.

While being interested in the science, he said he is also very interested in the policy and political aspects of his area of research.

“We scientists work hard at we do and if politicians are not in same boat as us what we do goes to waste,” Piqueras said. “I don’t want that to happen, especially with air. It affects us all, in one way or another. It is a shared resource and the current death toll is unacceptable.”

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