UN Resident Coordinator a.i. & UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia Ms.Beate Trankmann's Opening Remarks at “Youth For Clean Air” workshop and panel #WorldEnvironmentDay2019
UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Ms.Beate Trankmann's Opening Remarks at “Youth For Clean Air” workshop and panel #WorldEnvironmentDay2019
Sain Baitsgaana uu!
I’m delighted to see so many bright young minds at UN house today, for World Environment Day – a day to remind ourselves of the beauty of our planet, and the gravity of the challenges facing it. And this year’s theme affects us all: fighting air pollution.
While air pollution has gained greater attention in recent years, in Mongolia and globally, it is easy to forget the severity of the situation and the urgent need to act, particularly during warmer months. While we are moving into summer, winter will be back soon. So, we must prepare. We all know that during winter, Ulaanbaatar has some of the most dangerous air on earth, reaching 30 times the WHO’s safe limit in some places. And that coal is the key cause. This poses serious consequences, to human health and the economy.
The health costs are staggering, especially for the elderly, children, and pregnant women. According to UNICEF, this includes three-and-a-half times more miscarriages here in winter, as well as recurring lung infections and reduced lung function for children here.
UNDP’s soon-to-be-released public spending review on air pollution estimates the costs of inaction – in direct health costs, environmental damage, welfare and productivity losses – could be around 20 percent of Mongolia’s GDP.
Without major changes to how we live, and how we use nature’s resources, this ‘air-emergency’ will get much worse, and fast. Our cities will become uninhabitable – with blue sky and clean air no longer a given, but a privilege.
The UN is working with the Government and all our partners to target both the causes and effects of air pollution, by providing reliable policy frameworks and supporting the enabling conditions for public, private sector and citizen action to fight pollution. Those efforts must come from all of society and be sustained over time, to have an effect.
This includes enabling more people to live with on-grid central heating in affordable apartments and housing, while reducing the most harmful emissions from coal, by moving to cleaner-burning brickets and phasing out inefficient stoves and heat-only boilers.
It’s also key to cut coal-based energy through smarter pricing strategies, as well as metering the heavily-subsidized consumption of apartment-dwellers, and boosting energy efficiency in buildings. Ultimately, Mongolia must move away from coal, and raise the proportion of renewables in its energy mix. There is much opportunity for this, with wind and solar abundantly available.
We also look forward to working with young changemakers like you. Your generation are better educated, more tech-savvy and better-connected than any before. You are the best-equipped to help us overcome this great challenge. That’s why on this year’s World Environment Day, we organized a dialogue with young Mongolians. Your engagement, commitment and creativity are crucial to beating air pollution And the UN will be here supporting you on that journey.
So, what can we all do to beat air pollution? While effective policies, pricing strategies and investments in energy infrastructure to reduce emissions at their sources are critical, individual actions to reduce our own emissions and exposure are equally important.
Any change starts with individual awareness and actions. Everyone can make a difference, for example by:
- Saving energy - at home, at work, everywhere, like turning off lights when not in use;
- Looking for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment;
- Carpooling, taking public transport, biking, or walking whenever possible;
- And sharing your #EverydayAction on social media.
Such actions may be small on their own. But when hundreds, thousands or millions act together, they make a major difference. Your daily decisions have the power to help Mongolia meet its target of halving air pollution by 2025. And, in doing so, to help it meet an even bigger agenda: the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 – a world without poverty, with less inequality and that can continue to sustain life.
I would like to end with the pledge we are making today. The pledge badge we are giving you today says you are an air pollution-beater.
So when you go home or to your office, I ask you to place that pledge somewhere visible, as a reminder of your commitment to beating air pollution. And to let others know that anyone can join in, too. We need more awareness campaigns, like this. Because we all have the power to enable a brighter future for Mongolia, that keeps its skies blue, its people healthy, and leaves no one behind.
I want to thank the three UN agencies – UNDP, UNICEF and WHO – for cooperating as ONE-UN to host this event, as well as the Embassy of France for supporting this cause.
2019 is already half gone. But this year, we’re reminding each other to make air pollution a priority all year. So let’s make this a habit—staying alert, staying aware and being prepared.
We must change our lives, to change our skies. And let today be the start.