Brussels, 7 September 2021/OACPS: H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary-General of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), reaffirms, in solidarity with the Member States of the United Nations, the global commitment of the OACPS to commemorate 7 September as, The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. Secretary-General Chikoti notes that the theme for 2021, ‘Healthy Air, Healthy Planet’, which puts the focus on the health aspects of air pollution, particularly within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the critical Climate Change crisis, is both timely and fitting.

The Secretary-General acknowledges that air pollution is the single and most profound environmental risk to human health, posing a significant global threat to the economy, the environment and the achievement of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 3, 4, 7, 11; and in particular, SDG 13, which aims, ‘to take urgent action to combat climate and its impact’.

Members of the OACPS, through their engagement in development cooperation programmes funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), are currently supporting initiatives that heed the importance of environmentally-friendly actions to promote clean air. The OACPS fully supports international efforts to highlight the negative impact of air pollution on human health, natural ecosystems, and its disproportionate effect and impact on women, children and older persons, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries.

Air pollution is also the main, preventable cause of respiratory-related illness, disease and death globally. With an estimated 9 out of 10 persons worldwide breathing unclean air and with air pollution being the cause of approximately seven million premature deaths annually, urgent attention is needed; especially when one factors in the additional risks associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – which are further exacerbated by the high levels of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Secretary-General Chikoti heralds the opportunity provided by the International Day of Clean Air and Blue Skies, to continue supporting policies and programmes which facilitate actions to strengthen international cooperation at global, continental, regional, sub-regional, national and community levels to improve air quality. He further pledges the firm commitment of the OACPS to increase public awareness at all levels, and to improve the health and livelihoods of all people through international collaboration and the sharing of best practices to improve air quality across the Blue Planet.

Image: Kerith Kordas