DUBAI: As the UAE marked the World Environment Day on June 5, top officials of the United Nations called for greater efficiencies in cooling and food and fuel consumption to help fight air pollution.
Speaking to Gulf News on Tuesday, Niklas Hagelberg, coordinator of the Climate Change Programme under the United Nations Environment Programme, said, “Under the theme #BeatAirPollution, UN Environment had urged residents of the Middle East to join a Mask Challenge and make a pledge on this UN World Environment Day to raise awareness of one of the biggest issues facing our planet today.”
Accordingly, supporters of the #BeatAirPollution campaign placed masks over their faces in a symbolic gesture to combat the public health emergency and stress on the need for clean air.
Hagelberg said, “The idea is to get people all over the world to pay attention to the quality of air and have governments put in place policies that can effectively check air pollution.”
The more efficient you are with the fuel consumed by your cars, the less air pollution there will be. Similarly, you are in a region which is high in the use of air-conditioners which must necessarily be energy-efficient through district cooling and other measures.
He said even as individuals, people could do their bit to keep the air clean.
“Just knowing what the situation is about and paying attention to it has a direct impact on our health,” he said, noting how individual lifestyle changes go a long way in achieving the desired goal.
The changes, he said, are wide-ranging. Among other things, they include using public transport and fuel-efficient or electric vehicles. “The more efficient you are with the fuel consumed by your cars, the less air pollution there will be. Similarly, you are in a region which is high in the use of air-conditioners which must necessarily be energy-efficient through district cooling and other measures.”
He said, “The foods we consume also contribute to pollution as some foods like beef produce more greenhouse gases compared to others. Food waste is a big contributor to methane emissions, so how we plan our meals, manage our food waste and use leftovers is also important.”
Joyce Msuya, acting executive director, UN Environment, said, “Through strong political will, encouraging ambitious investments in climate action, and increasing citizen awareness, the Gulf region can play a significant role in pushing back air pollution. And when we address air pollution, we address climate change. Many pollutants cause global warming, so reducing emissions goes far beyond just bringing back blue skies and clean air in the region. It is the key to safeguarding our communities from a global climate crisis.”
The Mask Challenge
Ahead of June 5, people globally pledged to support World Environment Day on social media, using pictures of themselves wearing a mask, and tagging their friends to challenge them. The posts were accompanied by the hashtag #BeatAirPollution and #WorldEnvironmentDay to make an impact.
Air pollution: The figures say it all
• 93 per cent of all children live in environments where air pollution levels are above World Health Organisation guidelines
• Air pollution results in around 600,000 premature deaths each year
• One person generates almost half a ton of solid waste per year
• No burn alternatives can help save 190,000 lives globally every year
• A phase down of hydrofluorocarbons can prevent warming of up to 0.1 degrees Celsius by 2050 and warming of 0.5 degrees by 2100
• Diesel Road freight transport is responsible for over 150,000 tons of black carbon emissions.
• Source: UN Environment