Everyone should help make air cleaner and skies bluer - GulfToday

Everyone should help make air cleaner and skies bluer


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Amid the overall negativity and tension caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the world over, many may not even have realised that the very first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies was being marked on Monday.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly highlighted the dangers posed by air pollution and urged greater efforts to address it. Air pollution contributes to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases; it also threatens the economy, food security and the environment.

Globally, nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air, and air pollution causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries.

This year, while the lockdowns associated with the global pandemic led to dramatic falls in emissions — providing a glimpse of cleaner air in many cities — emissions are already rising again, in some places surpassing pre-COVID levels. And this is certainly a worrisome factor.

Addressing climate change can also cut back air pollution.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will help reduce air pollution, death and disease, as the UN Secretary-General points out.

Countries need to end subsidies for fossil fuels as well as use post-COVID recovery packages to support the transition to healthy and sustainable jobs.

Governments still providing finance for fossil fuel-related projects in developing countries should shift that support towards clean energy and sustainable transport.

At the international level, countries need to cooperate to help each other transition to clean technologies.

The International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, to be commemorated on 7 September annually, was established in 2019 by the UN General Assembly, which recognised the importance of clean air as well as the threat of air pollution on human health and ecosystems, particular its disproportionate impact on women, children and older persons.

The resolution emphasised the need to strengthen international cooperation at the global, regional and subregional levels in various areas related to improving air quality, including the collection and utilisation of data, joint research and development, and the sharing of best practices.

The International Day aims to raise awareness clean air is important for health, productivity, the economy and the environment; demonstrate the close link of air quality to other environmental and developmental challenges such as climate change; promote solutions that improve air quality by sharing actionable knowledge best practices, innovations, and success stories; and bring together diverse actors for concerted national, regional and international approaches for effective air quality management.

The UAE, on its part, is among the first countries in the region to prioritise environmental protection, climate change.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has stated: “The UAE is among the first countries in the region to prioritise environmental protection and climate change, by adopting green policies and launching leading initiatives in this vital sector.”

“Plans that protect ecosystems must be strengthened, and we must preserve our resources, reinforce biodiversity and achieve the highest levels of productivity,” as His Highness mentioned.

Air pollution is an issue that affects each and every individual and life on earth. The issue is too serious to be ignored.

As UN officials point out, individuals too can play a part: by cycling to work, not burning trash (it causes air pollution), and pressuring local authorities to improve green spaces in cities, everyone can contribute to making the air cleaner and skies bluer.

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