Build a Better Future with Blue Skies for All, UN Urges, Marking First International Day of Clean Air
New York (United Nations) – The first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is being commemorated around the world on Monday, following the recognition by the United Nations General Assembly of the importance of clean air for the health and day-to-day lives of people.
In a message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the dangers posed by air pollution and urged greater efforts to address it.
“Air pollution contributes to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases; [it] also threatens the economy, food security and the environment,” he said.
“As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution, which also increases the risks associated with COVID-19,” he added.
Globally, nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air, and air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries.
This year, while the lockdowns associated with the global pandemic led to dramatic falls in emissions – providing a glimpse of cleaner air in many cities – emissions are already rising again, in some places surpassing pre-COVID levels.
“We need dramatic and systemic change. Reinforced environmental standards, policies and laws that prevent emissions of air pollutants are needed more than ever,” stressed Guterres.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will help reduce air pollution, death and disease,” said the Secretary-General, calling on countries to end subsidies for fossil fuels as well as use post-COVID recovery packages to support the transition to healthy and sustainable jobs.
“I call on governments still providing finance for fossil fuel-related projects in developing countries to shift that support towards clean energy and sustainable transport.”
“At the international level,” he added, “countries need to cooperate to help each other transition to clean technologies.”
The International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, to be commemorated on 7 September annually, was established in 2019 by the UN General Assembly, which recognized the importance of clean air as well as the threat of air pollution on human health and ecosystems, particular its disproportionate impact on women, children and older persons.
The resolution emphasized “the need to strengthen international cooperation at the global, regional and subregional levels in various areas related to improving air quality, including the collection and utilization of data, joint research and development, and the sharing of best practices.”