UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for global efforts to address air pollution.
Around the world, nine out of every 10 people breathe unclean air. Air pollution contributes to various diseases and causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries, he said in a video message that was played at a virtual UN event to mark the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, Xinhua reported.
Air pollution also threatens the economy, food security and the environment. The world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
Guterres asked for urgent action to address the deeper threat of climate change. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels will help reduce air pollution, death and disease, he said.
This year’s lockdowns in response to Covid-19 have caused emissions to fall dramatically, providing a glimpse of cleaner air in many cities. But emissions are already rising again, in some places surpassing pre-Covid levels, he warned. “We need dramatic and systemic change. Reinforced environmental standards, policies and laws that prevent emissions of air pollutants are needed more than ever.”
Countries need to end subsidies for fossil fuels and to cooperate at the international level to help each other transition to clean technologies, he said.
“I call on governments still providing finance for fossil fuel-related projects in developing countries to shift that support toward clean energy and sustainable transport. And I urge all countries to use post-Covid recovery packages to support the transition to healthy and sustainable jobs.”
The International Day of Clean Air for blue skies falls on September 7, which is a public holiday in the US. The UN commemoration was held on Tuesday instead.