Air pollution is the single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally, with some estimated 6.5 million premature deaths (2016) across the world attributed to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Particularly in developing countries, air pollution disproportionately affects women, children and the elderly, especially in low-income populations as they are often exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution and indoor air pollution from cooking and heating with wood fuel and kerosene. In the absence of aggressive intervention, the number of premature deaths resulting from ambient air pollution is estimated to be on track to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2050.
Poor air quality is a challenge in the context of sustainable development for all countries, in particular, in urban areas in developing countries, with levels of air pollution that are higher than the limits set out in the World Health Organisation air quality guidelines. Society bears a high cost of air pollution due to the negative impacts on the economy, work productivity, healthcare costs and tourism, among others.
Today, the international community acknowledges that improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation and that climate change mitigation efforts can improve air quality. UN Member States recognise the need to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination by 2030, as well as to reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management by 2030.
Encouraged by the increasing interest of the international community in clean air, and emphasising the need to make further efforts to improve air quality, including reducing air pollution, to protect human health, the General Assembly decided to designate September 7 as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. In the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled "The future we want," countries committed to promoting sustainable development policies that support healthy air quality in the context of sustainable cities and human settlements.
Compiled by Law Desk (Source: UN.ORG).