On 23 June UNEP announced that the theme of the second annual International Day of Clear Air for blue skies, facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), will be “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet.”
The occasion, to be held on September 7, was established by UN resolution in 2019 at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, where UNEP was asked to facilitate all events moving forward. The first event, with the theme “Clean Air for All,” was held on September 7, 2020.
International Day of Clear Air for blue skies raises awareness and facilitates actions to improve air quality.
“Air pollution is a global problem, which impacts human health, planetary health and climate change,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. We need to ensure that clean air is available to all, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status. To do that, the world will need to take decisive, urgent action.”
Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to global public health, it is estimated that 92 per cent of the population is exposed to polluted air causing an estimated seven million premature deaths each year. Polluted air particularly impacts children, women and the elderly, with increased links to diseases such as dementia, diabetes, COVID-19, cardio-vascular and neurological diseases.
Developed countries have greatly improved their air quality in recent years but many developing countries, still reliant on wood and other solid fuels for cooking and heating, lag behind. The result is that many vulnerable and marginalized persons also suffer from the worst air quality.
The issue was bought to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, with data suggesting that air pollution could be putting people at further risk of infection. The pandemic resulted in a decrease in air pollution and an increase in air quality, as air travel and car travel reduced during international lock-downs.
“As the world starts to emerge from COVID-19, we have the opportunity to lay the foundations for a green, inclusive recovery to ensure that we don’t lose the environmental gains we have made,” said Andersen.
Hero photo © Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR via Flickr