Story | 24 May, 2019

This World Environment Day, take action to #BeatAirPollution

Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, but many solutions can be found in nature. 

content hero image

Photo: Photo by Lola Guti on Unsplash

World Environment Day takes place every year on 5 June. It is the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be one of the largest global platforms for public outreach, celebrated by millions of people in over 100 countries.

On 5 June 2019, World Environment Day will be on the theme of air pollution— a call to action to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. Air pollution is identified as the most important health issue of our time, causing 1 in 9 deaths globally and an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year.

Air pollution harms our natural environment, decreasing the oxygen supply in our oceans, making it harder for plants to grow and contributing to climate change. It creates acid rain that harms and kills plants and animals. Toxic pollutants in the air, or deposited on soils or surface waters, can impact wildlife in a number of ways.

Like humans, animals can experience health problems if they are exposed to sufficient concentrations of air toxics over time. Studies show that air toxics are contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and disease in animals. Persistent toxic air pollutants (those that break down slowly in the environment) are of particular concern in aquatic ecosystems. These pollutants accumulate in sediments and may magnify in tissues of animals at the top of the food chain to concentrations many times higher than in the water or air.

But luckily, nature-based solutions such as reforestation and ecosystem restoration help to reduce air pollution and mitigate its adverse effects. IUCN Members and Commission members can play a critical role in raising awareness about the dangers of air pollution as well as promoting these solutions that directly relate to IUCN’s work.

Once again, IUCN and CEC have teamed up with UN Environment to bring you practical guides and tools for you to learn what you, too, can do to help. The World Environment Day Activation Toolkit is a practical guide for individuals, cities, governments, schools & universities, businesses, and civil society to take action and help #BeatAirPollution.

Additionally, from 24 May through to June 5, we are calling on everyone to join the Mask Challenge. Face masks are a great symbol to show leaders we want to breathe clean air. Alongside celebrities, influencers and creators, the World Environment Day campaign invites everyone to decide what action you are going to take to #BeatAirPollution.

Visit the World Environment Day website to find out more.