1st International Day for Clean Air: UN Highlights Risks Of Air Pollution, Urges Govts To End Fossil Fuel, Use Renewable Energy

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By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos

 

The United Nations (UN) has called for decisive global action to beat air pollution by charging countries and businesses to end reliance on fossil fuels in favour of clean affordable renewable energy.

The first International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies was commemorated on 7th September 2020.

“With extreme air pollution events on the rise, global efforts to reduce pollution and its effects will receive an advocacy boost when, for the first time ever, the world marks the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on 7 September,” United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) said in a Press release dated 7th September 2020.

It explained that a UN General Assembly Resolution in 2019 adopted the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

The observance of the day is facilitated by the UN Environment Progamme (UNEP) to stress the importance of and urgent need to raise public awareness at all levels and to promote and facilitate actions to improve air quality. 

“The Republic of Korea led global efforts to create this new International Day of Clean Air for blue skies and will host an event to start celebrations,” the UN agency narrated.

According to it, in many parts of the world extreme air pollution events have become a seasonal phenomenon, almost as reliable as the monsoon or autumn foliage.

Citing an example, UNEP said: “In early November, New Delhi and other cities in northern India experienced levels of air pollution that cancelled flights and kept people masked and indoors. In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and the Thai capital, Bangkok, these events occur in January and February. In California and Australia, summer wildfires are being turbocharged by climate change, destroying habitat, and covering vast areas in a choking haze.

Describing the above examples as the extreme impacts of a crisis that affects planet earth, UNEP emphasized that air pollution affects human, animal and planetary health, with an estimated seven million people dying prematurely from diseases caused by air pollution. 

Air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally, UNEP stated, adding that each year many millions more living with these diseases suffer a substantial amount of disability.

“Around the world, nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the Day. “The extent of this challenge requires decisive action on the part of governments, businesses and communities to end reliance on fossil fuels in favour of clean affordable renewable energy. 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.”

Air pollution not only threatens the health of people but also has negative impacts on plants and ecosystems, UNEP highlighted. 

“Ozone air pollution alone is responsible for 52 million tons of global crop losses annually. Air pollution also drives the climate crisis with many greenhouse gases and air pollutants coming from the same sources, meaning air pollution is not only bad for human  health and quality of life today, but also makes the future less safe for coming generations,” the international environmental protection agent disclosed.

It pointed out that the good news is there are cost-effective, practical solutions available today to reduce air pollution. 

It said that pollution does not respect international borders, and therefore, countries must work together to prioritise air pollution reduction measures and invest in clean air solutions, and noted that research showed that renewable energy is more cost-effective than ever.

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