World Environment Day 2019: A day to ‘Beat Air Pollution’

The below press release dated Jun. 5, 2019 is from UN Environment.

Governments, industry, communities and individuals around the world today commemorated World Environment Day, the United Nations’ biggest annual event for positive environmental action, encouraging worldwide awareness and commitment to protect our planet.

This year’s celebrations, held under the theme ‘Beat Air Pollution’, called upon people to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world. More than 6 billion people – one-third of them children – regularly breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and well-being at risk.

Spearheaded by China, the official host of the global World Environment Day celebrations, UN Environment’s campaign to #BeatAirPollution culminated into a record number of registered events and commitments.

“Protecting our blue skies may be difficult, but our future relies on it,” Joyce Msuya, acting Executive Director of UN Environment, said during the global celebrations in Hangzhou. “And they are our blue skies. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Beijing or Beirut, when we look up we see the same sky. And I think when we look to China, we see many examples of how to protect it.”

Over the past decade, the Chinese government has taken drastic measures to limit air pollution in its biggest cities, bringing back blue skies in Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities, benefitting [sic] the health of millions.

By implementing far-reaching measures at the national- and state-level government, such as 100 per cent electric public transportation, curtailing outputs from factories and allocating more than US$10 billion to address air quality, several cities saw the concentration of PM 2.5 drop dramatically.

The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, conveyed his congratulations on the occasion of World Environment Day, saying, “Humankind only has one planet. Environmental conservation and sustainable development are the common responsibility of all countries. Ecological civilization is built into China’s national development architecture and strategy. China will work with any and all to implement the 2030 agenda to protect our only planet.”

A global call for action

In the weeks leading up to World Environment Day, photos and videos of people on every continent covering the lower half of their faces with masks, scarfs, their hands or even flowers, food, and clothing flooded social media channels.

Each image, accompanied by the hashtag #BeatAirPollution, came with a call for global action and a personal pledge to make individual lifestyle changes to reduce air pollution such as swapping car rides for bike rides, reducing meat intake or powering down electronic equipment when not in use.

“Today, we face an equally urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his official message for World Environment Day. “My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy not a grey economy.”

BreatheLife commitments

Nine governments at the national and municipal level made commitments to bring air quality to safe levels by 2030, by joining the BreatheLife campaign, a joint initiative by UN Environment, the World Health Organization, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the World Bank.

By committing to BreatheLife, Bogotá (Colombia), Lalitpur and Kathmandu (Nepal), Honduras, Bogor City (Indonesia), the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montevideo (Uruguay) and Mexico demonstrate their dedication to collaborate on the clean air solutions that will help us get to a World Free of Air Pollution faster. The new commitments bring the number of cities, regions and countries in the BreatheLife network to 63, representing 271.4 million citizens around the world.

For more, see: “On World Environment Day, world turns spotlight on air pollution” UN Environment press release here.

Published by Alan Kandel