Clean Air for blue skies

The UN has declared 7 September the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. GIZ is helping to organise the campaign and is involved in work to tackle air pollution all over the world – in Viet Nam and South Africa, for example.

Air pollution has been regarded as a crucial environmental issue for many years. It will now attract even greater attention on the international agenda. In December 2019, the UN General Assembly declared 7 September the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. As part of the steering committee organising the day’s events, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is doing its bit to support the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The goal over the coming years is to establish this day as a global platform dedicated to the issue of clear air and to use the opportunity to initiate and promote action by governments, companies and civil society to tackle air pollution. 

GIZ is also involved in practical measures to improve air quality, for example in Viet Nam and South Africa. On behalf of Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) it supports specific action in Hanoi, Johannesburg and Pretoria. In Hanoi, this includes the planned extension of pedestrian areas, new green spaces and improvements to public transport. Viet Nam’s environmental protection laws are currently being revised and will include new rules on air quality.

In South Africa, greater efforts are under way to raise awareness of air pollution across the country, including the townships. Clean air and climate change are now part of the school curriculum. Information campaigns have also been launched to persuade South Africans to use clean energy for cooking. Biogas systems are currently being tested. These would allow people to use organic waste as a source of energy.

Air pollution has far-reaching consequences. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around seven million people die every year as a result of contaminated air. The problem also has a disproportionate impact on low-income countries. Here, in the absence of alternatives, people use charcoal for cooking and kerosene for lighting. As well as damaging the health of those in the immediate area, this is harmful to the environment and agriculture and contributes to climate change.

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