World Environment Day: air quality, an issue for the future
China is hosting celebrations for World Environment Day on 5th June. The theme for 2019 is air pollution and how to address it.
Every year since 1974, on the 5th of June, some 150 countries participate in World Environment Day, established by the UN. This year, the theme that we are being encouraged to reflect on is air pollution, which is responsible for over 8 million premature deaths worldwide each year. To address this critical issue, many member states are taking action to make our air more breathable. All these initiatives are giving cause for hope and challenging preconceived notions.
China on the front line
As mentioned above, China was chosen by the UN to organise celebrations for World Environment Day 2019. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Chinese leaders have taken a green turn, introducing a broad range of initiatives to limit air pollution and reduce the smog that smothers its cities, causing great concern to its population. Their work is beginning to pay off: in 2019, the average level of fine particles in Chinese cities is 39 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Admittedly, this figure is still high – almost double the world average – but it represents a sharp decrease (-9% in a year) for the second year running. Another encouraging development is that China now owns half the world’s fleet of electric vehicles and 99% of its electric buses!
92% of the world’s population does not breathe pure air
5,000 billion dollars per year is the estimated social cost of air pollution worldwide
These few examples bear witness to increasing global awareness and highlight the numerous initiatives underway, but much remains to be done to improve the quality of the air we breathe. Beyond this observation, World Environment Day should be an opportunity to look to the future and dream up new solutions.