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September 6, 2022

Environment: UN outlines steps to tackle air pollution to ensure healthy, sustainable planet


By Kingsley Adegboye, with Agency report

United Nations has outlined steps needed to tackle air pollution and ensure a healthy, sustainable planet for all ahead of the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies which is celebrated every  September 7 each year. This year’s edition is billed for tomorrow.

In July this year, nations recognised the universal right to clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Clean air is now a human right. A stable climate is a human right. Healthy nature is a human right.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres who disclosed this weekend, said: “Today, air pollution is denying billions of people of their rights. Dirty air affects 99 per cent of people on the planet, and the poor suffer worst; especially women and girls who suffer from cooking and heating with dirty fuels.

According to the UN scribe, the poor also live in areas choked with fumes from traffic and industry, adding that air pollutants also cause global warming, and wildfires are further polluting the air, insisting that when people are exposed to air pollution and extreme heat, their risk of death is some 20 per cent higher.

He said: “Climate change and air pollution are a deadly duo. On this third International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, I call on all countries to work together to combat air pollution. We know what to do. We should 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; recycle waste instead of burning it.

“These actions would save millions of lives each year, slow climate change and speed up sustainable development. Let’s monitor air pollution, make laws to implement WHO guidelines and deliver credible plans to reduce emissions from vehicles, power plants, construction and industry.

“Together we can reduce air pollution and keep people and the planet healthy and safe. Every year, on September 7, the world celebrates the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The day aims to raise awareness and facilitate actions to improve air quality. It is a global call to find new ways of doing things, to reduce the amount of air pollution we cause, and ensure that everyone, everywhere can enjoy their right to breathe clean air./

“The theme of the third annual International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, is The Air We Share”./

In the same vein, UNEP has noted that sustainable management of water resources and access to safe water and sanitation are essential for unlocking economic growth and productivity, and provide significant leverage for existing investments in health and education.

According to the UN agency, the natural environment for example, forests, soils and wetlands contribute to management and regulation of water availability and water quality, strengthening the resilience of watersheds and complementing investments in physical infrastructure and institutional and regulatory arrangements for water access, use and disaster preparedness.

“Water shortages undercut food security and the incomes of rural farmers while improving water management makes national economies, the agriculture and food sectors more resilient to rainfall variability and able to fulfil the needs of growing population. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems and their biodiversity can ensure water purification and water quality standards.

“UNEP is working to develop a coherent approach to measuring water-related issues. All the SDG indicators under Goal 6 are coordinated by UN Water and UNEP actively works with UN Water and the UN Water partners on these indicators. UN Water has developed a data portal as a hub for SDG 6”.