Every year, on September 7th, the world comes together to celebrate the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. This annual event serves as a powerful reminder of the global challenge posed by air pollution and the need for collective action. Under the theme #TogetherForCleanAir, this year’s observance emphasised the critical importance of strong partnerships and increased investments to address air pollution.
A Global Crisis
Air pollution is a global emergency that affects us all. Shockingly, about 99 percent of the world’s population breathes polluted air, leading to the premature deaths of 6.7 million people each year and causing illness in countless others. Air pollution knows no borders, and it stems from a myriad of sources, both natural and human-induced.
Rising industrial activity, deforestation, wildfires, sandstorms, and other factors have caused air pollution to skyrocket beyond safe levels in countries such as Canada, China, India, Thailand, and the United States. It’s a crisis that demands immediate attention and coordinated efforts on a worldwide scale.
A Call For Unity
In his message for the International Day of Clean Air, UN Secretary-General António Guterres aptly noted that “global problems require global solutions.” His words resonate with the fundamental truth that clean air is a shared resource and a collective responsibility. Guterres urged the world to unite in efforts to clean the air, protect human health, and leave behind a sustainable planet for future generations.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), reinforced this message, emphasizing that every individual has the right to live in a clean and healthy environment. She called upon governments, the private sector, and all stakeholders to intensify their actions and investments in the battle against air pollution.
Local Progress with Global Impact
While the International Day of Clean Air encourages global collaboration, it is heartening to witness the positive impact of local and regional initiatives. A recent UNEP report highlighted how robust policies and governance frameworks led to substantial reductions in air pollution levels in areas such as Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi, benefiting a combined population of 26 million people.
In Nairobi, Governor Sakaja Arthur Johnson emphasized the role of local action, particularly in regions bearing the brunt of air pollution. He discussed the deployment of county-wide air quality monitors, emphasizing the importance of accurate information for enforcing pollution regulations. Similarly, countries in West Asia proposed establishing a regional air quality network to assess air quality management and enhance global data and accountability.
Healthcare and NASA's Contribution
Recognizing the pivotal role of healthcare workers in addressing the health risks posed by air pollution, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled its first air pollution and health training toolkit. This toolkit equips healthcare providers with the knowledge to identify instances where air pollution impacts well-being and communities, contributing to public and global health.
Moreover, experts from UNEP and NASA convened an event at NASA’s Ozone Bioindicator Garden in Maryland to discuss the far-reaching impacts of air pollution on the environment and human health. NASA’s TEMPO satellite, launched in April, plays a pivotal role in monitoring air pollution trends over North America. This revolutionary technology provides real-time data that enhances our understanding of pollution sources and effects, facilitating more informed decision-making.
The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies serves as a global wake-up call, underscoring the imperative of collaborative efforts to combat air pollution. With air pollution exacting a heavy toll on both human health and the environment, the time for action is now. Global leaders, governments, the private sector, and individuals must unite, recognizing clean air as a universal right and a shared responsibility. By working together, we can ensure that clean air is accessible to all and pave the way for a healthier planet for future generations.