Stop Air Pollution to Save Lives: UN Chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)

In a message to mark the World Environment Day, observed on June 5, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has emphasized the link between worsening levels of air pollution and the climate crisis.

As well as claiming 7 million lives every year, and damaging children’s development, the UN chief noted that many air pollutants cause global warming, which he has described as “an existential threat.”

With the environment facing “unprecedented perils,” caused by human activity, the UN chief said that action to fight climate change is “the battle of our lives”, that we must win, by taxing pollution, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and halting the construction of new coal plants.

[ Also Read: Clean Climate Environment News Magazine ]

World Environment Day, widely celebrated in over 100 countries, is the United Nations day for encouraging international awareness and action to protect the environment.

The theme for 2019 is air pollution, calling on governments, industry, communities and individuals to take action to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve the air quality in cities and regions across the world.

Every World Environment Day has a different host country; this year’s host was China, with the official celebration taking place in the eastern city of Hangzhou, in the presence of senior Chinese government officials and Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

[ Also Read: Lethal Pollution Killing People in Delhi ]

According to UNEP, air pollution goes to the heart of social justice and global inequality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 97% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet air quality guidelines. That percentage falls to 49 in high-income countries.

However, according to UNEP, air pollution is preventable. The solutions — laws, standards, policies, programmes, investments and technologies — are widely known and can be implemented. Clean air is a human right, UNEP asserts. It is everyone’s right and everyone’s responsibility. Each one of us has a role to play in ensuring that the air we breathe does not end up killing us.

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Rakesh Raman