7th September, “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies” celebrated for the first time in Turkey and around the globe
- Today, the protection of air quality is at the top of the agenda for the most critical environmental issues associated with human health. In Fact, according to the Health Organization (WHO) data, 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air, and 8 million people per year are affected by diseases caused by air pollution.
- The significance of air protection and air quality, which is the source of breath for human health, has been better understood globally due to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the whole world.
- 7th September, declared as the “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies” by the United Nations was celebrated for the first time in Turkey and around the globe with the highest level of participation from the United Nations, T.R. Ministry of Environment and Urbanization as well as 81 provinces.
- Addressing at the Clean Air Special Session held within the framework of the celebrations, Deputy Minister of Environment and Urbanization Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Birpınar mentioned that the coronavirus pandemic has been revealed the significance of clean air all over the world and stated his content regarding the decision taken by the United in terms of social awareness.
- Bruno Pozzi, European Regional Director of the United Nations European Environment Program (UNEP), emphasized that the biggest environmental risk for human health is air pollution.
- Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, pointed out the importance of ensuring common solutions, stating that around 6.5 million people suffer from diseases such as stroke, asthma, and bronchitis in one year across the EU due to air pollution.
- Celebrations within the scope of the EU Funded “CityAir” Project, Technical Assistance for Improving Air Quality and Raising Public Awareness in Cities, conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization will take place on a regular basis from this year onwards.
- Revision of the air quality action plans for 31 provinces in Turkey as well as awareness-raising activities within the scope of the EU-funded CityAir have been in progress for the last two years. The air pollutants for these 31 cities will be identified when the project is completed and this will allow micro-level activities to reduce these pollutants at city and street level.
Today, protection of air quality is at the top of the agenda for most critical environmental issues associated with human health. , 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air and air pollution accounts for 8 million people affected by various diseases. The significance of merging global efforts and ensuring collaboration has come to the forefront of the agenda once again due to the Covid-19 pandemic strongly hitting the whole world.
Given that, during the 74th Session of the United Nations in December 2019, the 7th of September was declared as “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies”. “Clean Air Day”, celebrated for the first time this year, aims to raise public awareness at all levels and to encourage activities for improving air quality. Celebrations within the scope of the EU Funded “CityAir” Project, Technical Assistance for Improving Air Quality and Raising Public Awareness in Cities, conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization will take place regularly from this year onwards.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Birpınar: “We create long-term strategies”
A Clean Air Special Event Session was hosted by the T.R. Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, with wide participation including Provincial Environment Directorates of 81 cities, to emphasize the significance of 7th September “Clean Air Day”. Prof. Mehmet Emin Birpınar, Deputy Minister of T.R. Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, addressing the session, stated that every issue related to air quality should be handled on a global scale. Pointing out the fact that the “International Clean Air” declared by the United Nation will further strengthen the current cooperation, Birpınar continued as follows:
“Many studies are being carried out at national and international level to improve air quality. Projects serving as a model to the world such as the Smoke-Free Airfield application, Millet Gardens, and the Zero Waste Project carried out under the auspices of Mrs. Emine ERDOĞAN are being put into practice one by one. We fulfill our responsibilities as a party to the United Nations Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since improving air quality also directly contributes to the fight against climate change, we also attach importance to it. As a country, we always prioritize environmental sensitivity in energy, transportation, industrial and agricultural policies. The orientation to renewable energy sources, energy and resource efficiency, and infrastructure projects in transportation have a direct impact on improving air quality. Our domestic electric car and the investment in the local solar panel production factory are among the most important projects recently realized.”
Emphasizing that they support bicycle path projects in urban and intercity transportation, Birpınar stated that they took the necessary steps to complete 3000 km of bicycle paths and 3000 km of green walking paths by the end of 2023. Birpınar said, “We support the construction of bicycle paths that will be integrated with the European Bicycle Network-Eurovelo. Especially during the pandemic process, our citizens prefer bicycles and e-scooter instead of public transportation. In this context, we are conducting a legislative study jointly by our relevant Ministries to promote the use of bicycles and e-scooters, especially in city centers. We develop strategies to use our country’s resources most efficiently and effectively for warming. We continue to work on the use of clean technology and emission reduction in the industry. As the ministry, we have been monitoring air quality for many years. Data obtained from existing stations gives an idea of the pollution levels of cities. We can follow the changes in pollution by years. However, our goal is to have information about the air quality of every neighborhood and every district. It is highly costly to establish a sufficient number of stations in line with this goal. For this reason, we will support our current stations with modeling studies, as applied around the world.”
Pointing out that many projects have been implemented under the Environment Chapter, which was opened to negotiations in 2009 during the European Union membership process, Birpınar said,
“We have transposed the EU Directive into our domestic legislation and are applying it. Now, we are currently implementing the ‘Environment and Climate Action Sector Operational Program’. 335 million Euros were allocated to our country by the European Union under this program. With the ‘ Project on Improving Air Quality and Raising Public Awareness in Cities’ carried out based on 41 contracts signed, we aim to increase public awareness on the protection of air quality”.
UNEP Avrupa Direktörü Bruno Pozzi: “The biggest environmental risk for human health is air pollution”
Bruno Pozzi, European Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), stated that the biggest environmental risk to human health in Europe is air pollution. Pozzi said, “Air pollution is not only a prominent environmental problem, but it also harms human health and economy. Therefore, the United Nations General Assembly decided to declare September 7 “World Clean Air Day for a Blue Sky”. After the COVID-19 period, we can use the existing technologies and solutions for a cleaner sky, while starting to work together to build a better future”.
Head of EU Delegation to Turkey Ambassador Meyer-Landrut: “Nothing could be as precious as the air we breathe”
Mentioning that air pollution accounts for approximately 6.5 million people in the EU suffering from diseases such as stroke, asthma, and bronchitis every year, Head of EU Delegation to Turkey Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut said:
“Let me take this opportunity to express our thanks to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation for organizing this important event together with the UNEP Europe Office. I trust that with such initiatives and the efforts of the Ministry through the CITYAIR project, the EU will have contributed to better air quality management and a higher quality of life for the citizens of Turkey as well. Every year, the life expectancy of more than 400 thousand people decreases due to reasons associated with air pollution. However, nothing can be more precious than breathing. That is indeed the reason why we are trying to take European Union standards to the highest level possible and monitor the air quality in Cities very closely.”
Prof. Dr. Alper Ünal: “Individual awareness is of vital importance for sustainable clean air”
Speaking on the environmental impacts of air quality, City Air Project Expert Prof. Alper Ünal from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences, Climate and Marine Sciences Department underlined that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how big a role individual measures play in the fight against air pollution. Ünal said, “Decreasing number of vehicles in traffic particularly in large cities due to majority of the population staying home has reduced air pollution due to particulate matter PM10 by 32 percent. This is a very significant reduction. To make it sustainable, not only the public but also individuals have an important role to play”
Indicating the fact that the United Nations is creating awareness at the international level and aiming to ensure a global improvement in terms of air quality, Ünal continued as follows: “All actors working on this subject united to work on a solution starting at the local level and rising to global. Within the scope of the Emission Inventory Workshops we organize in CityAir Project, we ensure that local authorities and all relevant stakeholders become knowledgeable on this issue. This awareness starting at the local level will make sure that the subject will be handled at the national level in the upcoming period.’’
The objectives of “International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies”:
- Ensuring that people from all parts of the society understand the significance of air quality for health, environment, economy, and productivity.
- Indicating the close link between air quality and other environmental issues such as climate change and Sustainable Development Goals.
- Promoting solutions for air quality improvement through sharing knowledge, innovation, and success stories that have been and can be put into action.
- Developing alliance-forming strategies among local, national and international projects conducted in the field of air quality management and accelerating air quality activities by bringing international actors together.