Celebrated annually on June 5, WED is an initiative that the UN launched in an attempt to raise awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime and how to effectively combat these problems.
The campaign was first held in 1974 with the theme ‘Only One Earth’.
Each year, the UN marks a different focus to commemorate the day while the country hosting the main event for the year chooses the theme for WED.
This year’s edition of the global day has ‘Beat Air Pollution’ as its theme with China as the host.
UN: NINE OUT OF 10 PEOPLE WORLDWIDE ARE EXPOSED TO AIR POLLUTANTS
In a message to mark WED, António Guterres, UN secretary-general, said an estimated nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines.
“This is lowering life expectancy and damaging economies across the planet,” he said.
"9 out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to air pollutants that exceed @WHO air quality guidelines. This is lowering life expectancy & damaging economies across the planet." — @antonioguterres' call to #BeatAirPollution on #WorldEnvironmentDay: https://t.co/a4ne2nWXjZ pic.twitter.com/KQLOw2iMPq
— United Nations (@UN) June 5, 2019
“To improve air quality, we must know our enemy. Deaths and illnesses from air pollution are caused by tiny particles that penetrate our defences every time we fill our lungs. These particles come from many sources: the burning of fossil fuels for power and transport; the chemicals and mining industries; the open burning of waste; the burning of forests and fields; and the use of dirty indoor cooking and heating fuels, which are major problems in the developing world.”
Guterres noted that over 7 million people die each year from polluted air while others suffer from long term health problems, such as asthma.“According to the World Bank, air pollution costs societies more than $5 trillion every year,” he added.
“Today, we face an equally urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy not a grey economy.
“On World Environment Day, I ask each of us to act so we can breathe more easily. From pressuring politicians and businesses to changing our own habits, we can reduce pollution and beat climate change.”