European Union External Action

Healthy Air, Healthy Planet

07/09/2021 - 08:00
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Clean air is important for people’s health and for their daily lives. Air pollution on the other hand is the greatest environmental risk to human health, particularly affecting women, children and older persons. Pollution also has a detrimental impact on ecosystems.

clean sky, environment, climate

 

Pollution harms our health and our environment. It is the largest environmental cause of several mental and physical diseases and of premature deaths, especially among children, people with certain medical conditions and the elderly. Furthermore, pollution is one of the main reasons for the loss of biodiversity, reducing the ability of ecosystems to provide services such as carbon sequestration and decontamination.

 

The 2021 theme for the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet” which emphasizes the health aspects of air pollution, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s focus is on prioritizing the need for healthy air for all, while keeping the conversation open to other critical issues such as climate change, human and planetary health as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Particularly in developing countries, air pollution disproportionately affects women, children and the elderly, especially in low-income populations as they are often exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution and indoor air pollution from cooking and heating with wood fuel and kerosene. Аir pollution is also a global problem with far-reaching impacts owing to its transport over long distances. Poor air quality is a challenge in the context of sustainable development for all countries, in particular in cities and urban areas.

Today the global fight against pollution is stronger than ever. The international community acknowledges that improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation and that climate change mitigation efforts can improve air quality.

 

zero pollution, clean airClick on the image to read the factsheet

To build A Healthy Planet for All, the European Green Deal calls for the EU to better monitor, report, prevent and remedy pollution in air, water, soil and consumer products, among other things. The EU Action Plan: "Towards a Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil" was adopted on 12 May 2021.

The Zero Pollution vision for 2050 is for air, water and soil pollution to be reduced to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems, that respect the boundaries with which our planet can cope, thereby creating a toxic-free environment. This is translated into key 2030 targets to speed up reducing pollution at source including:

  • improving air quality to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55%;
  • improving water quality by reducing waste, plastic litter at sea (by 50%) and microplastics released into the environment (by 30%);
  • improving soil quality by reducing nutrient losses and chemical pesticides’ use by 50%;
  • reducing by 25% the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity;
  • reducing the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30%, and significantly reducing waste generation and by 50% residual municipal waste.

The action plan aims to strengthen the EU green, digital and economic leadership, whilst creating a healthier, socially fairer Europe and planet.

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