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SG/SM/20879
7 September 2021

Pollution ‘Damaging Our Health, Driving Climate Crisis’, Says Secretary-General, Urging Countries Do More to Improve Air Quality, in International Day Message

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

Today, as many as 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air, leading to some 7 million premature deaths each year, of whom 600,000 are children.  Unless we act decisively, this number could double by 2050.

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 neighbourhoods in wealthier nations.

Poverty forces people to live close to sources of pollution, like factories and highways, and 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.  But air pollution can be solved.

On the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, I call on all countries to do more to improve air quality.

Better monitoring can identify sources of air pollution.  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.

I welcome the recent global phase-out of leaded petrol. 

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.

And we must 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.

So, today and every day, let us work together to clean the air that we breathe so we may protect both people and the planet.

For information media. Not an official record.