International Year of Clean Air and Blue Skies (7 September 2021)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I congratulate the United Nations Environment Programme for convening the second International Year of Clean Air and Blue Skies under the theme “Healthy Air, healthy planet”.

Thanks a lot to the panelists for very in depth presentations. Undoubtedly, air pollution is the single biggest environmental risk to human health. Every year around 6.5 million premature deaths (2016) across the world are attributed to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Scientific data reveals that tiny, invisible particles of pollution penetrate deep into our lungs, bloodstream and bodies and are responsible for chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer, as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack.

Besides human life, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are most linked with near-term global warming, rising sea levels, and climate change.


In our region Stubble burning in our eastern neighbour is a major cause of air pollution. According to some estimates, every year farmers in India burn about 23 million tonnes of paddy stubble.

Each year thick clouds of smoke and dust during months October and November transcends from our eastern border to Pakistan causing serious life threatening diseases and massive air pollution.

During Pandemic this has been more critical as air pollution was causing people more vulnerable to the Covid-19 infection and slowed their recovery.

It is therefore inevitable that these ill-disposed practices are stopped immediately to protect our nature and improve air quality.


Healthy air is inextricably linked with healthy planet. Humans – Animals – Plants – all lives depend on it.

As air has no borders; similarly to protect and make it healthier is not just national responsibility. It is a common heritage of human kind and should be treated as global public good.

Developed countries have marginally improved their air quality in recent years but many developing countries, still reliant on wood and other solid fuels for cooking and heating, lag behind.

Therefore it is the responsibility of advanced economies to help developing countries through financial means and technology transfer in protecting our common heritage.


Covid-19 has reminded us that if anthropogenic emissions are reduced nature can fight back. We all witnessed that air quality improved during the Pandemic when transport of all kinds halted.

We must not forget the lesson learnt from the Pandemic and should significantly reduce carbon emissions by adopting more climate friendly and nature-based solutions.

There are successful examples all around the world. My own country has chosen a path of green stimulus, which means protecting planet and improving biodiversity as well as creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

My Prime Minister initiative of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami is one but most powerful example of nature-based solutions for combating air pollution and climate change.

Additionally by 2030, 30 % of all new vehicles sold in Pakistan in various categories will be Electric Vehicles.

On Coal from 2020, a moratorium imposed on new coal power plants. This followed through the scrapping of plans of two new coal fired power plants in favor of hydro-electric power.

I am confident that these examples can be replicated in other parts of the world to protect nature, our planet, and above all us.

I thank you.