World Clean Air Day 2022: Sharing the Air in North America
Today, as we gather in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies and this year’s theme “The Air We Share,” we recognize the decades of action through partnerships that have significantly improved air quality in North America. We also recognize that tackling persistent challenges to improve air quality can result in climate change co-benefits, improve human health for our communities and advance environmental justice, through even stronger collaboration within and across borders.
Air pollution remains a stark global challenge, with far-reaching impacts due to its transboundary nature, posing one of the greatest environmental risks to human health. Poor air quality is one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally, causing an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year.
With more than 90% of the global population living in areas exceeding World Health Organization guidelines for healthy air and air pollution ranking as the fourth highest risk for death overall, just three years ago the United Nations General Assembly sounded the alarm and established 7 September as a day to raise awareness and mobilize action to address air pollution.
The awareness around air quality and the interconnected and transboundary nature of its environmental, human health and climate dimensions has accelerated in recent years, and there is a clear need to move faster, further, and together to implement bold regional action. Whether it be improved air quality due to lowered emissions during lockdowns in the early phase of the pandemic, or the toxic smoke from the evermore frequent wildfires, the shifting social perception of air quality emergencies are generating growing concern for affected communities across North America and driving the call and the need for urgent and coordinated regional action.
Individual and collective actions to improve air quality in North America, such as those facilitated through the CEC to promote air quality monitoring, to develop a coordinated framework for air quality measurements, and making comparable and compatible data available and accessible to countries and interested stakeholders, have already helped improve decision-making, transparency, public awareness of air quality issues and progress monitoring at a regional scale.
As we look to the future, North America, as a region, has a clear role to play as a leader and catalyst in further improving air quality at a regional and at a global scale, while advancing climate action and promoting environmental justice, working horizontally across sectors as well as vertically across all levels of government.
We, at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, United Nations Environment Programme North America, and the World Resources Institute, are proud to come together today in Washington, D.C, along with experts and representatives from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States, to celebrate the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. We also take this opportunity to showcase and share the great progress our collective efforts have contributed to reducing air pollution in North America and more importantly, to continue convening experts, policymakers and stakeholders for a discussion on how we strengthen collaboration going forward to close the gap on air pollution in North America and beyond. Joint efforts to improve air quality in the North American region are also helping address the interconnected climate dimensions of our environmental policies, promoting biodiversity protection and tackling persistent pollution all while improving the health of our communities and advancing environmental justice.
While World Clean Air Day is a reminder of “The Air We Share,” it also reminds us that our responsibilities for our environment, our futures, our communities and the well-being of future generations are urgent priorities which depend upon the choices we make now. As we look to the coming decades of policy and action, let us be bold, build on our successes, reflect on our remaining challenges, and have the courage and determination needed to meet the moment.
“Taking action on air quality is about much more than simply improving the air we breathe – air quality is intricately related to our climate and to our biodiversity and is critical to building the resilience of the most underserved and vulnerable communities.” —Jorge Daniel Taillant
“In North America, governments and other stakeholders have a rich history of working together to address air pollution both at home and abroad. Much can be learned from this regional experience in other areas of the world where clearing the air continues to be an urgent environmental, health, and developmental challenge.” —Barbara Hendrie
“Air pollution causes seven million premature deaths each year, and 90 percent of them are in low- and middle-income countries. For the sake of global health, climate, and justice, we must collaborate across all scales to collect and share data, research, and best practices to limit its sources. Air pollution does not stay within geographic boundaries or sectors, and neither do its solutions.” —Ani Dasgupta
About the CEC
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established in 1994 by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, a parallel environmental agreement to NAFTA. As of 2020, the CEC is recognized and maintained by the Environmental Cooperation Agreement, in parallel with the new Free Trade Agreement of North America. The CEC brings together a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public, Indigenous people, youth, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and the business sector, to seek solutions to protect North America’s shared environment while supporting sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations
The CEC is governed and funded equally by the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of the United States of Mexico through the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, and the Government of the United States of America through the Environmental Protection Agency.