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UN chief calls on all countries to do more to improve air quality

UN chief Antonio Guterres.

United Nations | Xinhua | United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on all countries to do more to improve air quality.

“On the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, I call on all countries to do more to improve air quality,” the UN chief said in a message for the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, which falls on Sept. 7 annually.

“Today, as many as nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, leading to some 7 million premature deaths each year, of whom 600,000 are children,” said the top UN official. “Unless we act decisively, this number could double by 2050.”

The secretary-general pointed out that like many societal ills, air pollution reflects global inequalities, with most deaths related to air pollution occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and in poorer neighborhoods in wealthier nations.

Poverty forces people to live close to sources of pollution, like factories and highways, said Guterres, noting that poverty makes 3 billion people continue to burn solid fuels or kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting.

“The pollution that is damaging our health is also driving the climate crisis,” he added.

The secretary-general stressed that air pollution can be solved.

“Better monitoring can identify sources of air pollution,” he said, underscoring that evidence-based national legislation can help meet World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines.

And stronger emissions standards on vehicles, power plants, construction and industries can cut pollution, said the secretary-general.

“I welcome the recent global phase-out of leaded petrol,” he said. “We must also accelerate access to clean cooking and clean heating. We must invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Coal use must be phased out.”

He also call for transition to “zero emission vehicles.”

“If we take these steps, we can save as many as 150 million lives this century and help clean our atmosphere,” said the UN chief.

The UN General Assembly on Dec. 19, 2019, established Sept. 7 as the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, underscoring the importance of clean air for the health and day-to-day lives of all.

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Xinhua

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