Network Updates / Panama / 2019-06-10

Latin American and Caribbean communities mobilize to beat air pollution:

The national governments of Honduras and Mexico, and the local authorities of Bogota and Montevideo pledged to find clean air solutions, as part of the BreatheLife network

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05 June 2019, Panama – Thousands of citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with governments and the private sector, commemorated World Environment Day, the United Nations’ biggest annual event for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to take care of the Earth.

Since it began in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach. The celebrations this year were held under the theme “Beat Air Pollution”. In the Americas, at least 300,00 premature deaths occur every year due to the lack of clean air.

Four governments in Latin America at the national and municipal level announced commitments today to bring air quality to safe levels by 2030, by joining the BreatheLife campaign, a joint initiative by UN Environment, the World Health Organization, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the World Bank.

The national governments of Honduras and Mexico, and the local authorities of Bogota (Colombia) and Montevideo (Uruguay) pledged to find clean air solutions, as part of the BreatheLife network which includes 63 members, representing 271.4 million citizens around the world.

In Bogota, a city of over 8 million citizens, municipal institutions are working together under a collaborative framework that draws together the efforts of local, regional and national administration to improve air quality for better public health.

Mexico aims to develop an integrated approach, coordinating actions among local authorities and collaborative international efforts to abate air pollution, reduce the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, mitigate climate change and protect public health.

The Mexican states on board the BreatheLife initiative are:  Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Guanajuato and Yucatan. Several Mexican Municipalities – Celaya, Cuatro Ciénegas, Guanajuato, León, Matamoros, Puebla, Purísima del Rincón, San Francisco Gto., Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Toluca – have also joined the network.

Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, pledged to raise awareness in the city on the challenges people in the city face due to air pollution and will run a campaign to inform people on how the city’s two air quality monitoring stations function.

“The right to clean air is a human right. If we cannot breathe clean air, we cannot enjoy health and prosperous lives. It is just that simple.  Air pollution is the most pressing environmental issue of our times”, said Leo Heileman UN Environment Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Our whole body, from head to toe, is affected when we inhale poisonous gases that circulate in the air of our cities and countrysides. The right to a healthy environment is enshrined in the constitutions of at least 100 countries in the world. There has been substantive progress in public policies for clean air in the last decade, but we need to accelerate actions.”, said Heileman.

Understanding the different types of pollution, and how it affects our health and environment will help us take steps towards improving the air around us. That is why World Environment Day, as the “people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth, is a great opportunity to promote citizen participation.

In Ecuador, young people planted 1,000 native trees minutes from the crater of the Pululahua, one of the few inhabited volcanoes in the planet. In Haiti and Mexico, UN Environment hosted film festivals on the environment.

The Mexican state of Guanajuato, with 5 million inhabitants, announced today the establishment of a special commission to deal with air pollution and will see further celebrations during the day, including a nighttime bike ride.

Cycling was also on the agenda in Peru, where a massive bike ride was organized in the capital, Lima, to commemorate World Environment Day. In Brazil, 10 states organized bike rides over the course of a week, while the Ministry of Environment formally launched the National Air Quality Monitoring Network.

In Argentina, the World Rugby U20 Championship joined the World Environment Day celebrations.  The tournament is taking place in the cities of Rosario and Santa Fe, in Argentina, June 4-22.  During the weekend, seven of twelve participating captains planted a ceibo tree, Argentina’s National tree.

Several capital cities or megalopolis in Latin America have not met at some point WHO’s air quality guidelines, for example, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Mexico City, La Paz, Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo.  But too often smaller cities do not meet air quality guidelines either.

“Nobody should have to choose between using a mask to go outside or be forced to stay indoors at home. No, we are entitled to live and enjoy outdoors, in sustainable and resilient cities and rural areas. Our right is to #BeatAirPollution and live in a pollution free planet”, said Leo Heileman.

About UN Environment:

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About World Environment Day:

World Environment Day is the single largest celebration of our environment each year. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated across the globe. For more information, visit

For media inquiries, please contact:

María Amparo Lasso, Head of Regional Communication, UN Environment: [email protected]

This is a UN Environment press release

Banner photo by UN Environment.