7 September 2020

Secretary-General, Marking First International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, Calls on Nations to Replace Fossil Fuels with Green Energy

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, observed today:

Around the world, 9 out of every 10 people breathe unclean air.  Air pollution contributes to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.  It causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries.  Air pollution also threatens the economy, food security and the environment.

As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution, which also increases the risks associated with COVID-19.  We must also urgently address the deeper threat of climate change.  Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C will help reduce air pollution, death and disease.

This year’s lockdowns have caused emissions to fall dramatically, providing a glimpse of cleaner air in many cities.  But emissions are already rising again, in some places surpassing pre-COVID levels.

We need dramatic and systemic change.  Reinforced environmental standards, policies and laws that prevent emissions of air pollutants are needed more than ever.  Countries also need to end subsidies for fossil fuels.  And, at the international level, countries need to cooperate to help each other transition to clean technologies.

I call on Governments still providing finance for fossil fuel-related projects in developing countries to shift that support towards clean energy and sustainable transport.  And I urge all countries to use post-COVID recovery packages to support the transition to healthy and sustainable jobs.

Today, 7 September, marks the first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.  Let us work together to build a better future with clean air for all.

For information media. Not an official record.