By Andy Chukwu
António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General has said that nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants that exceed World Health Organisation air quality guidelines.
Guterres, in a statement to mark the 2019 World Environment Day on Wednesday, states that all around the world, from megacities to small villages, people are breathing dirty air.
He said that this was lowering life expectancy and damaging economies across the planet.
“Today, we face an equally urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively, 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.
“On World Environment Day, I ask each of us to act so we can breathe more easily, from pressuring politicians and businesses to changing our own habits, we can reduce pollution and beat climate change,” Guterres said.
He noted that to improve air quality, countries must know her enemy, with deaths and illnesses from air pollution causing tiny particles that penetrate defences every time filling the lungs.
Guterres said these particles come from many sources: the burning of fossil fuels for power and transport; the chemicals and mining industries; the open burning of waste; the burning of forests and fields.
“The use of dirty indoor cooking and heating fuels are major problems in the developing world.
“This polluted air kills some 7 million people each year, causes long term health problems, such as asthma, and reduces children’s cognitive development,” he said.
The UN chief said that tackling air pollution therefore presents a double opportunity, as there are many successful initiatives that both clear the air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as phasing out coal-fired power plants and promoting less polluting industry, transport and domestic fuels.
He called for an investment in renewable energy sources outstripping those in fossil fuels every year, the rise of clean energy is helping globally.
“It is in such initiatives, designed to improve air quality and fight climate change, that hope lies.
“I urge everyone attending the Climate Action Summit that I am convening in September to draw motivation from such examples,” Guterres said.
The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Air Pollution.” All around the world — from megacities to small villages – people are breathing dirty air.