Beijing has retrofitted coal-fired power plants and shifted massively to renewable energy to control air pollution. A thick smog covers the city on November 26, 2018. (Photo: VCG)
Once known for the choking smog enveloping its major cities, China will be the global host of World Environment Day, exhibiting its two-decade-long fight against air pollution.
The celebrations under the theme of "Air Pollution" would be held in multiple cities in the country, with the main event in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province.
From 1998 to 2018, the country struggled to control emissions from the primary pollution sources, including coal-fired power plant, industries, transportation, heating, and buildings.
As a result, the average concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particle PM10 dropped by 93.3, 37.8 and 55.3 percent respectively in Beijing. The PM 2.5 content in the air reduced by over 40 percent, a recent report on the country's 20-year fight against air pollution, released by Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau, found.
"The country has demonstrated tremendous leadership in tackling air pollution domestically," said Joyce Msuya, the acting head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
"It can now help spur the world to greater action. China will now be leading the push and stimulating global action to save millions of lives," Msuya added. "China will be a great global host of 2019's World Environment Day celebrations."
Globally, air pollution has become a major health concern, with 92 percent of the world's population breathing toxic air.
More than seven million people worldwide die prematurely every year due to air pollution, with about four million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific, a World Health Organization study found. The toxic air costs the global economy five trillion US dollars annually.
Ground-level ozone pollution – a result of air pollution – is also impacting agriculture sector. Staple crop yields are likely to drop by 26 percent by 2030.
World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year to raise awareness about environmental issues. Last year, India hosted the event under the theme "Beat Plastic Pollution."
This year, the UN will urge governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies to improve air quality in cities and regions across the world.
"China, with its growing green energy sector, has emerged as a climate leader. The country owns half the world's electric vehicles and 99 percent of the world's electric buses," a UN statement said.
By hosting World Environment Day 2019, the Chinese government will be able to showcase its innovation and progress toward a cleaner environment, it added.