Stating that nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air, UN Secretary General António Guterres said that the extent of this challenge required decisive action on the part of governments, businesses and communities to end reliance on fossil fuels in favour of clean affordable renewable energy.
The secretary general said this as the world marked for the first time ever International Day of Clean Air on September 7. “On the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, let us commit to no new coal for cleaner, greener economies and better health for all,” he said.
Adopted by a UN General Assembly Resolution in 2019, the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies – whose observance is facilitated by the UN Environment Progamme (UNEP) – stresses the importance and urgent need to raise public awareness at all levels and to promote and facilitate actions to improve air quality.
Meanwhile, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that air pollution has a disproportionate impact on the poor. “The economic costs are mounting whether through healthcare bills, lost productivity, reduced crop yields of the eroded competitiveness of cities,” Andersen said. “COVID-19 lockdowns have shown that a cleaner sky is possible. That people are willing to listen to science. That we can act quickly to protect human health. We must take similar urgent action to lift the smog of air pollution If we do, we can save millions of lives and billions of dollars each year,” she said.
The UNEP said that extreme air pollution events have become a seasonal phenomenon in many parts of the world. Pointing out that air pollution was the greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally, the UNEP said an estimated seven million people die prematurely from diseases caused by air pollution. Noting that air pollution not only threatened the health of people but also has negative impacts on plants and ecosystems, the UNE said that the Ozone air pollution was alone responsible for the loss of 52 million tons of global crop annually.
The International Day of Clean Air for blue skies calls for increased international cooperation at the global regional and sub-regional levels, It provides a platform for strengthening global solidarity as well as political momentum for action against air pollution and climate change, including actions like the increased collection of air quality data, carrying out joint research, developing new technologies and sharing best practices
Stating that there were chances to build back better, WHO Director-General De Tedros Adhunom Ghebreyesus said that many governments have already taken steps to align health, air pollution and climate policies. “Now is the time to rethink how we organize our societies, our cities, our transportation, and how we cook and heal our homes for health’s sake,” he said