Clean Air for blue skies Day highlights need for global collaboration to address air pollution


The world on Thursday 7 September 2023 marked the fourth International Day of Clean Air for blue skies with calls to build multi-stakeholder partnerships, bolster investment and embrace our shared responsibility to address air pollution. Over 99 per cent of people on Earth breathe polluted air, which causes an estimated 6.7 million premature deaths a year and serious health impacts.

In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly designated 7 September as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The Day – whose observance is facilitated by the UN Environment Progamme (UNEP) – stresses the importance of clean air and the urgent need for efforts to improve air quality to protect human health.

“Air pollution knows no borders, travelling thousands of kilometres, spreading contaminates with the wind. And the climate crisis is having devastating and growing impacts on every continent on Earth,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for Clean Air Day. “Global problems require global solutions. We must act together for clean air – the theme of this year’s International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.”

“Together, we must accelerate a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels, particularly coal, towards clean renewable energy, while ensuring that no one is left behind,” he added.

He stressed the importance of supporting the transition to clean cooking and electric vehicles, encouraging walking and cycling in cities, putting in place systems to make responsible waste management second nature, and acting on the pledge to reduce methane emissions.

The UN Secretary-General has proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact in which all big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions, and wealthier countries mobilize financial and technical resources to support emerging economies to do so. In addition, he has proposed an Acceleration Agenda to super-charge these efforts.

Noting that everyone has a right to live in a clean and healthy environment, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said: “Air pollution kills, causing millions of premature deaths each year and air pollution is linked to climate change as the sources are often the same.”

“We must cut these sources. Replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Reform agriculture to reduce methane and black carbon emissions and help vulnerable households access clean heating and cooking fuels and reduce open burning of waste and of course, invest in nature to keep cities cool and filter the air,” she added, calling on governments, the private sector and all parties to increase action and investments and work together to beat air pollution.

The International Day of Clean Air for blue skies was marked by events across the world, including discussions by the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, NASA and others.

Countries in the West Asia region recommended the establishment of a Regional Air Quality Network and requested UNEP to assess the status of air quality management and identify work priorities for the network as the first phase.

In Nairobi, which this week hosted the Africa Climate Summit and Africa Climate Week, an event was held to mark Clean Air Day, officiated by the Governor of Nairobi, H.E. Sakaja Johnson, who oversaw the unveiling of a new mural highlighting the importance of clean transportation and better air quality for children’s health.

Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to public health globally and accounts for an estimated 6.7 million premature deaths every year. Air pollution and the climate crisis are closely linked, as all major pollutants have an impact on the climate and most share common sources with greenhouse gases. Improving our air quality will bring health, development and environmental benefits. Although air pollution is a global problem, it disproportionately affects those living in developing nations and particularly the most vulnerable, such as women, children and the elderly.

Every year, on 7 September, the world celebrates the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The day aims to raise awareness and facilitate actions to improve air quality. It is a global call to find new ways of doing things, to reduce the amount of air pollution we cause, and ensure that everyone, everywhere can enjoy their right to breathe clean air.