Air pollution can cause premature death from heart disease, stroke, cancer and acute lower respiratory infections. In 2016, an estimated 7 million people worldwide died from indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to the Measuring Progress report recently published by the UN Environment programme.
UN's Sustainable development Goal 3.9 calls for a significant reduction in "the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination". To get change on such a large scale requires behaviour change, persuasion, persistence and leadership.
Reducing transport emissions and using clean transport forms an important part against air pollution.
UN Environment lists five pioneers in the clean transport campaign. China together with Britain, Chile, Costa Rica and Norway have set good examples for the world.
In April 2018, China launched a plan to promote environmentally friendly passenger vehicles in the fleets of auto manufacturers. The plan links companies' average fuel consumption to sales of "new energy vehicles". New energy vehicles include electric passenger cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles. The measure establishes a "parallel administration" system to tie average fuel consumption of automobile enterprises and the sales of new energy vehicles.
The plan, a revised version of California's Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, sets a target for corporate fleets of new energy vehicles to account for 10 percent of passenger vehicle market by 2019 and 12 percent by 2020.
China's Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan (2012–2020) has set average fleet targets of 6.9 litres of petrol per 100 km by 2015 and 5.0 litres per 100 km by 2020.
Transport emissions make up a large proportion of urban air pollution - much depends on location. It may be the largest source of air pollution or a secondary source, but the impact is devastating. This is why local and national governments are increasingly taking steps to improve urban air quality by developing smarter public transport systems and/or switching to electric and zero-emission transport.
"We need three things to happen," says UN Environment's electric mobility expert Rob de Jong. "We need to avoid the need for transport, like through better city design, where kids can walk to school and shops are close to residential areas. We need to shift to more efficient modes of transport, like public transport and walking and cycling; and we need to improve transport, like through cleaner vehicles."
When it comes to other leaders in the campaign, Britain has set up strict emission standards that will apply to passenger vehicles, buses, coaches and lorries across the whole of London from October 2020 since the capital has the poorest air pollution nationwide.
Chile has the second largest electric bus fleet in the world, after China. Carolina Schmidt, minister of environment of Chile, stressed the importance of having an electric mobility strategy so that everyone can work together to accomplish the goal of reducing air pollution.
Similarly, Costa Rica, with a population of 5 million people, uses a combination of solar, biomass, wind and geothermal energy to cover the country’s energy needs for over 300 days a year.
Norway is the third largest market for electric mobility in the world. On the road, 70 percent of passenger cars are electric. Norwegian government has introduced policies that promote usage of green vehicles, such as electric vehicles getting free transportation on Norway's ferries, and public parking in city centers is only allowed for electric cars.
The 2019 World Environment Day will be held on June 5 in China with the slogan "We can't stop breathing. but we can do something about the quality of our air".