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Climate change represents the "battle of our lives" says UN chief

With air pollution the theme of World Environment Day, the UN is calling on everyone to take action to explore renewable energy and green technologies.

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Air pollution is the theme of 2019 World Environment Day
Air pollution is the theme of 2019 World Environment Day

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has emphasised the link between worsening levels of air pollution and the climate crisis in a message to mark World Environment Day.

 

As well as claiming seven million lives every year, and damaging children’s development, the UN chief said that many air pollutants cause global warming, which he has described as “an existential threat.”

 

Unprecedented perils

 

With the environment facing “unprecedented perils,” caused by human activity, the UN chief said that action to fight climate change is “the battle of our lives”, that we must win, by taxing pollution, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and halting the construction of new coal plants.

 

World Environment Day is being celebrated in over 100 countries and aims to encourage international awareness and action to protect the environment. The theme for 2019 is air pollution, calling on governments, industry, communities and individuals to take action to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve the air quality in cities and regions across the world.

 

Every World Environment Day has a different host country: this year’s host is China, with the official celebration taking place in the eastern city of Hangzhou, in the presence of senior Chinese government officials and Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Innovative low-emission technology is at the forefront of a new revolution driven by policies pushing for lower air pollution and de-carbonisation of economy”

The UN said that although the rapid development of many Chinese cities has led to poor air quality, and associated health problems for many citizens, the country has made significant progress in addressing the problem in recent years.

 

In the Chinese capital, Beijing, the concentration of fine particulates in the air has fallen by a third over the past two decades, beating the target set by the State Council, China’s main administrative body.

 

The bicycle is also making a comeback. The Hangzhou authorities, for instance, have put a fresh emphasis on cycling, which, allied with digital technology, is helping to cut pollution and other cities are following its example.

 

"Showing the way"

 

Speaking to UN News ahead of World Environment Day, Tiy Chung, communications officer for the Climate & Clean Air Coalition at UNEP, said that Beijing is “showing the way,” by taking the issue very seriously, and implementing strong policies. The city has taken a systematic approach based on good science, and coordinated successfully with surrounding cities and regions.

 

Looking at other cities and countries, Chung is hopeful that the world is moving in the right direction. “We are getting at a mix of good policies and technologies. Innovative low-emission technology is at the forefront of a new revolution driven by policies pushing for lower air pollution and de-carbonisation of economy.”

 

Meanwhile, the BreatheLife campaign, led by UN Environment, the World Health Organisation, World Bank and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, has announced that nine new governments have joined its ranks, making fresh commitments to demonstrate their dedication to bring air quality to safe levels by 2030.

 

Bogota (Colombia), Lalitpur and Kathmandu (Nepal), Honduras, Bogor City (Indonesia), the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montevideo (Uruguay) and Mexico bring the number of cities, regions and countries in the BreatheLife Network to 63, representing 271.4 million citizens around the world.

 

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