UN chief calls for action to reduce air pollution

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for collective action to reduce air pollution and maintain a healthy planet.

“Together, we can reduce air pollution and keep people and the planet healthy and safe,” the UN chief said Wednesday in a video message on the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.

The secretary-general warned that air pollution denies billions of people their human rights. Dirty air affects 99 per cent of people on the planet, and the poor suffer the worst, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Especially women and girls, whose health suffers by cooking and heating with dirty fuels,” he said. “The poor also live in areas choked with fumes from traffic and industry.”

“Air pollutants also cause global warming. Wildfires are further polluting the air,” Guterres added.

He said that when people are exposed to air pollution and extreme heat, their risk of death is some 20 per cent higher.

“On this third International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, I call on all countries to work together to combat air pollution,” Guterres said.

He called on the international community to “invest in renewable energy and swiftly transition away from fossil fuels, rapidly move to zero-emission vehicles and alternative modes of transport, increase access to clean cooking, heating and cooling, and recycle waste instead of burning it.”

UN member states recognise the need to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination by 2030, as well as reduce the adverse environmental impact of cities by paying particular attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management by 2030.

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