Chemical, Waste and Air Quality
Tackling Air Pollution amid COVID-19 Pandemic
The first celebration of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies was commemorated on 7 September 2020 through several events to raise the public’s awareness and mobilise global action to address air pollution. In line with the celebrations, several webinars were conducted at the global and continental levels, dubbed “Planet Unplugged for the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies” which was hosted by Ms. Inger Anderson, Executive Director of UNEP, and “Improving Air Quality in African Cities: A Way to Prevent and Mitigate COVID-19 like Pandemics” which was moderated by Mr. Samba Harouna Thiam, Head of UNEP Liaison Office to AUC, UNECA and Representative to Ethiopia. The webinars facilitated a discussion among government representatives and experts on policy, provided an opportunity to exchange practical strategies and solutions on air pollution and encouraged the actions to combat air pollution and pave the way for enhanced leadership as well as global awareness for air quality. About 92 per cent of our world is exposed to polluted air and an estimated 7 million premature deaths occur worldwide every year as a result of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Air pollution moreover, contributes to climate change and negatively affects ecosystems. Therefore, there is an urgent need for investments in air pollution control and abatement.
On the margins of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, UNEP in conjunction with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) launched the first assessment of air pollution and climate change in Africa. "The assessment will contribute to delivering timely and accurate information to strengthen the response to harmful effects on human health, environment, ecosystems and livelihoods derived from air pollution and climate change", said Dr. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, the Director and Regional Representative of the Africa office at UNEP. The assessment will advance local knowledge and institutional capacity to enable governments to integrate and implement policies on air pollution and climate change effectively.
COVID-19 has, in general, led to reduced air pollution worldwide due to drastically changed behavioural patterns, however, in cities like Addis Ababa Ethiopia, recent research indicates that air pollution has increased in Addis Ababa during the pandemic. A concentration of PM2.5 was higher on 31 July 2020 than before 14 March 2020. Preliminary studies indicate a strong correlation between air pollution and infection of COVID-19. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to contribute to efforts to abate air pollution in cities in Ethiopia, on the World Bicycle Day 3 June 2020, Ethiopia launched the Non-Motorized Transport Strategy 2020-2029 in partnership with UNEP’s Share the Road Programme and the Institute of Transport and Development Policy Africa. It is a national policy to encourage walking and cycling. While the pandemic has made it more difficult for people to use public transport, the Government of Ethiopia decided to encourage walking and cycling as a part of the solution to the problem. Furthermore, future urban planning will focus on inclusivity and high-quality non-motorized transport facilities. The aim is to encourage more citizens to transfer by foot or bicycle while keeping the social distance amid pandemic and reduce dependency on vehicles.
For more information on the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, visit: https://www.cleanairblueskies.org/
For more information on Ethiopia non-motorised transport strategy 2020-2029, visit: https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/policy-and- strategy/ethiopia-non-motorised-transport-strategy-2020-2029