International cooperation to reduce air pollution

While air pollution is often perceived as a local or regional problem, air pollution also has a global dimension. At least three aspects of air pollution as a global problem can be distinguished: 1) the long-range transport of air pollution emitted in one country can affect people and the environment of another country; 2) there are similar air pollution problems in different countries that can be solved using the same measures; and 3) the implementation of national policies might have implications for other countries in so far as they can lead to shifting environmental problems to another country. In addition, air pollution is the central link in the interaction between ozone, nitrogen, climate change and ecosystems, which increasingly requires an integrated approach to environmental policymaking, also beyond the UNECE region. 

Addressing these pollution problems requires cooperation at the scientific and the policy level, including with other countries and regions. This also includes working with organizations and networks within the UN system and beyond to increase synergies and coordination and enhance outreach and information sharing. 

The need for coordinated actions has been recognized in many different international fora. The UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution has 40 years of experience in tackling transboundary air pollution on a regional basis and is keen to cooperate with other regions to ascertain common challenges and to exchange experiences on air pollution policy. 

At its thirty-ninth session of the Executive Body for the Convention (10-14 December 2018), a first Global event on clean air was organized with the objective to discuss cooperation on clean air. Representatives of countries, organizations and networks from different regions shared experience in reducing air pollution with a focus on common challenges, policy instruments and best practices. Possible options to further enhance inter-regional information sharing and cooperation, building on existing national and regional activities were discussed. 

The Executive Body also agreed to establish a forum for collaboration on reducing air pollution. The forum was launched at the 40th anniversary Special Session on 11 and 12 December 2019 and the Executive Body adopted decision 2019/5 on the establishment of the forum. The purpose of the forum is to provide a shared response to help address the threat to human health and ecosystems from air pollution. It also provides a platform for exchange and mutual learning and a repository of technical information. 

International Day of Clean Air for blue skies

Following the international community’s increasing interest in clean air, and emphasizing the need to make further efforts to improve air quality to protect human health, the United Nations General Assembly has designated 7 September as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

Often, you can’t see air pollution but it is everywhere. Air pollution causes approximately 7 million premature deaths annually, making it the single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally. Air pollution knows no borders. Air pollution disproportionately affects women, children and older persons, and has a negative impact on ecosystems. Many air pollutants contribute directly to the climate crisis and improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also recognizes that air pollution abatement is important to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies aims to build a global community of action that encourages cooperation at the national, regional, and international levels. It calls on countries to work together to tackle air pollution and provide clean air for all.

The theme of the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is "Clean Air for All". It invites us all to consider how we can change our everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce.

Air pollution is preventable, but we need everyone on board–from individuals to private companies to governments.

UNECE is contributing to the celebrations of the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on 7 September.