Air Pollution is the theme for this year’s, World Environment Day, which will be hosted by Hangzhou in southwestern China.
Since it was conceived by the UN in 1974, World Environment Day on 5th June is celebrated in more than 100 countries and has become a global platform for people to think about the growing number of environmental problems the world is facing.
In 2019, it is being held in China, with celebrations in several cities with Hangzhou holding the main event.
Each year, World Environment Day is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly important environmental concern. This year, Beat Air Pollution, will ask us how we can all reduce the amount of air pollution we produce. China is a particularly fitting place to hold the 2019 theme as it has some of the worst air quality in the world, but in recent years has also made bold, ambitious steps to combat air pollution.
China: Leading the Push Against Air Pollution
When China was announced in March this year as the host for 2019 World Environment Day, Joyce Msuya, acting director of UN Environment and assistant to the UN’s Secretary General, praised China for the progress it has made in battling air pollution.
“The country has demonstrated tremendous leadership in tackling air pollution domestically. It can now help spur the world to greater action. Air pollution is a global emergency affecting everyone. China will now be leading the push and stimulating global action to save millions of lives,” she said.
Air pollution has become one of the biggest threats to human health, with nine out of ten people worldwide exposed to air pollutants that exceed safe levels as set by the World Health Organisation. More than seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution, with four million of these in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Millions of people die prematurely every year from complications caused by polluted air. Air pollution impacts the most vulnerable in our society and threatens future generations by warming our planet. This World Environment Day the world must make a commitment to improving air quality everywhere. We have the solutions. We must act now,” said Helena Molin Valdés the head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, part of the UN Environment Program.
There are many causes of air pollution. While coal burning industry and power stations are being gradually phased out in many countries, diesel generators are a growing concern in off-grid, rural areas and air pollution from transport is linked to 400,000 premature deaths each year.
Where Does Air Pollution Come From?
However, one of the biggest causes of early fatalities is the indoor burning of fossil fuels, as well as wood and other biomass fuel used for cooking and heating homes. Indoor pollution causes 3.8 million premature deaths each year, most of them in developing countries. London is also due to ban wood burning stoves because of their contribution to air pollution.
Another major cause of illness and death in developing countries is the open burning of rubbish, particularly plastic, which produces harmful dioxins, furans, methane, and black carbon.
Sustainable Development Goals
Clean air and a sharp reduction in air pollution are enshrined in goals 14 and 15 of the UN’s 2030 target for Sustainable Development.
Air pollution in Asia and the Pacific is some of the worst in the world, and according to a new UN report, implementing 25 technology policies in this region of h world would see a 40 percent reduction in methane and a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide globally. If this could be achieved it would result in a third of a degree reduction in global warming.
In recent years China has emerged as a world leader in green energy. Half of all the world’s electric vehicles and 99 percent of electric buses are based there, and China also produces most of the world’s solar panels and produces more wind turbines than any other country.