First International Day for Clean Air calls for decisive global action to beat air pollution

Nairobi, 7 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.

Adopted by a UN General Assembly Resolution in 2019, the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies – whose observance is facilitated by the UN Environment Progamme (UNEP) – stresses 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.

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

These are examples of the extreme impacts of a crisis that affects us all – air pollution affects human, animal and planetary health, with an estimated 7 million people dying prematurely[1] 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. 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.”

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