World Environment Day: How we can reduce air pollution

CLEAN AIR: This year World Environment Day encourages us to consider how we can reduce the amount of air pollution we produce.
CLEAN AIR: This year World Environment Day encourages us to consider how we can reduce the amount of air pollution we produce.

This year the theme for World Environment Day, June 5, is #BeatAirPollution.

Air pollution not only impacts our health - about 6.5 million people worldwide die prematurely from air pollution every year - but also causes global warming.

The UN estimates that if we reduce emissions from air pollutants, we could slow global warming by up to 0.5 degrees celcius over the next few decades.

According to UN Environment, over half of the world's population live in urban areas, but only 12 per cent of cities have air quality measures that meet the World Health Organisation Standards.

There are two types of air pollution, indoor (household) air pollution caused by cooking stoves, heating and lighting, and outdoor (ambient) air pollution caused by emissions from power generation, transport, industrial furnaces, brick kilns, wildfires, agriculture, dust and sandstorms.

This year World Environment Day looks to encourage everyone to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce.

There are so many things that we can do from cycling or walking to work, recycling your non-organic trash, to encouraging your local council to improve green spaces in your city.

Here are some tips from UN Environment on how you can advocate for better air quality:

  • Turn off lights and electronics not in use
  • Check efficiency ratings for home heating systems and cookstoves so that models that save money and protect health are used
  • Never burn trash, as this contributes directly to air pollution
  • Provide clean cooking and heating stoves to rural communities
  • Use cleaner-burning fuels
  • Switch to clean diesel and improved engines for transport and freight
  • Have stricter vehicle emissions and efficiency standards
  • Switch from kerosene lamps to clean lighting technologies like solar lights
  • Prioritise the use of walking, cycling or rapid urban transit over cars
  • Support industries that use clean technologies
  • Invest in renewable energy

World Environment Day helps inspire action on urgent environmental issues.

The theme was chosen by this year's host country, China.

"China will be a great global host of 2019's World Environment Day celebrations," UN Environment Acting Executive Director, Joyce Msuya, said.

"The country has demonstrated tremendous leadership in tackling air pollution domestically. It can now help spur the world to greater action.

"Air pollution is a global emergency affecting everyone. China will now be leading the push and stimulating global action to save millions of lives."

China has emerged as a climate leader with its growing green energy sector. The country owns half the world's electric vehicles and 99 per cent of the world's electric buses.