The First Ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies Report September 7, 2020

With the international community's increasing interest in clean air and emphasising the need to make further efforts to improve air quality to protect human health, the United Nations General Assembly designated 7 September as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The launch and observance of the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies saw broad-based support from the United Nations (UN) family and partner organisations.

Air pollution causes approximately 7 million premature deaths annually, making it the single greatest and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally. .

Air pollution knows no national borders and disproportionately affects women, children and older persons. It has negative impact on ecosystems and many air pollutants contribute directly to the climate crisis.

Improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also recognises that air pollution abatement is important to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. There were a score of policy voices that underscored the existential need for clean air on the occasion of the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

“We need dramatic and systemic change. Reinforced environmental standards, policies and laws that prevent emissions of air pollutants are needed more than ever”- Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations
”#COVID19 lockdowns have shown that a cleaner sky is possible. That people are willing to listen to science. That we can act quickly to protect human health. We must take similar urgent action to lift the smog of air pollution & ensure #CleanAirForAll #ClimateAction”- Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP
"Now is the time to rethink how we organize our societies, our cities, our transportation, and how we cook and heat our homes. As we stand at this pivotal crossroads, let’s make the choice for clean air and blue skies.”- Dr. Tedros Adanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

The first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies aimed at building a global community of action to encourage cooperation at the national, regional, and international levels.

It called on countries to work together to tackle air pollution and provide clean air for all.

Accordingly, the theme of the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies was "Clean Air for All". The Day aspired to give all of us an opportunity to consider how we can change our everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce from individuals to private companies to governments.

For the launch of the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, UNEP, with support from partners, undertook the task of setting up the necessary foundation, coordination and broad-based engagement for successful and exciting observance, including developing key communication assets as well as a coherent visual identity, logo and brand for the Day that will resonate for decades to come!

A web of information

An exciting new digital platform was established for the launch and observance of the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The platform, accessible from this link, provides foundational assets, educational tools, partners' engagement, among other features and functionalities.

The first Day brought a host of partners together, through a larger Coordination Group established of 40+ organisations working on the issue of air pollution, for joint observance under a distinct theme, identity, and purpose.

The web platform served the objective of raising awareness of the first Day of Clean Air for blue skies, involving and engaging stakeholders while educating the wider public on the issue of air pollution and designed specifically from the perspective of serving as an engagement platform for many years.

Generating awareness:

The Day generated quite a buzz with wide scale participation seen from across the world.

  • A total of 53,000+ page views during campaign period with a peak of almost 11,000+ on the day
  • Most popular pages on site were event schedule, quiz, and the section on Frequently Asked Questions.
  • More than a quarter (27%) of traffic was direct, followed by social at 23%, 18% through paid search, 17% referral, and 11% email and 4% organic search.
  • Most viewed language was English followed by Spanish.

Most traffic came from known polluted cities in the world from Dhaka to Cairo, Delhi to Lagos and more.

Engaging Stakeholders:

The first Day saw the full spectrum of audience participating - from government entities and civil society organisations to private-sector entities and individuals, who showed great enthusiasm and in celebrating the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

A full pipeline of storytelling was deployed in the build up to and on the first Day to incite interest and excitement:

  • 18 Stories were contributed and posted on the Day's official website
  • 21 cities contributed their own videos that showed visitors what they were doing to curb air pollution
  • Brand guide was viewed 1,574 and downloaded 64 times, and applied by partners from across the world.
  • 3 email campaigns were deployed. Each was delivered to the stakeholder audience of 500 people and the general UNEP database of 100,000+.
  • Emails to the stakeholder audience saw high engagement, at 56% open rates and 14% click through rates. The UNEP general email database saw 19% open rates and almost 3% click through rates.
  • More than 60 online events were broadcast across multiple time zones in more than 10 languages. From a Regional Conversation on Air Pollution in Asia-Pacific with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to Conversations with clean air champions, a call for clean air was widely celebrated.


In the run up to the Day, UNEP launched 'Clear the Air' activation on September 1, 2020. This was focussed on educating and generating awareness on air pollution. The interactive story developed for this, hosted on the UNEP website, had over 18,000 views with over 67% coming from Google Paid Ads, email and social.

The interactive produced for the #WorldCleanAirDay had a total of 2,360 views.

The FAQs developed had a total of 1,737 page views

Connecting millions across the world!!

An exciting line up of content and social media assets including infographics, filters, and videos were created and events from all over the world were curated for this Day

Content created for the Day was shared across 6 social media platforms, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat with a total outreach of over 12 million people.

  • The three hashtags usage was intertwined: #WorldCleanAirDay, #CleanAirForAll, #ClearTheAir
  • Social Media had a total reach of over 12 million with 610,000+ views, 330,000+ engagement, and nearly 70,000 link clicks (The data includes Instagram and Facebook stories as well as paid ads, does not include #ClearTheAir)

Amongst the social media channels, Instagram had the highest numbers.

The best performing video was the AR Filter GIF on Instagram with over 30,000 views

  • A total of five UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors took part and shared the challenge, i.e., Alex Rendell, Antoinette Taus, Dia Mirza, Li Chen and Lucas di Grassi
  • UNEP Instagram bio was temporarily changed to the AR Filter
  • The filter was used in 129 Member States ranging across every continent bar Antarctica
  • The AR experience was most used in India (71%) followed by USA, South Africa and Germany

The best performing content, across all channels, were the infographics (both for International Day of Clean Air for blue skies and Clear the Air) which had the highest numbers for engagement.

The best performing story spoke about incorporating sustainable public procurement, green buildings, waste management, and biodiversity and conservation into green initiatives at Indian Railways.

What if we could see the invisible air pollution that kills more than 7 million people each year?

For the launch, a public service announcement video was released on UNEP's youtube channel on the latent effects of air pollution titled 'Air Pollution the invisible killer'. The video gathered a total 1,870 views during the week of the launch.

Red Velvet, a globally well-known Korean pop artist and UN Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, were amongst key influencers to join the celebrations. The video aims to raise public awareness in tackling air pollution and climate change. Red Velvet and future generations call for small changes in our everyday lives to fulfil our promise to keep clean air and blue skies.

Listen to the voices of future generations around the world who take climate actions for a better tomorrow!

Hot off the press

The first ever #WorldCleanAirDay featured in news, media and print globally

News clips of the media coverage during the launch of the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies 2020
Over 590 articles
Featured in 370 outlets
Across 55 countries worldwide
In 15 languages

We're Live!

Live events were held across the world - from Seoul, Korea and Bangkok, Thailand to Nairobi, Kenya and New York, USA!


An opening ceremony was held in Seoul, Korea, commemorating the launch of the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies

The ceremony that started the Day was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea and featured:

  • His Excellency Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea
  • Mr. Ban Ki-moon, 8th UN Secretary-General and current Chairman of Korea’s National Council on Climate and Air Quality
  • Ms. Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea
  • Mr. Cho Myung-rae, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea


A live session was held in Bangkok, Thailand that held a dialogue on air pollution within the Asia Pacific region

During the regional conversation there was live participation of:

  • Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General
  • Armida Alisjahbana, UN ESCAP Executive Secretary
  • Satya Tripathi, UNEP Assistant-Secretary-General
  • Malik Amin Aslam, Federal Minister and Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Climate Change
  • Lee Wook-heon, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Thailand

2,241 peak concurrent viewers of the live session

19,650 views of the live session

27 questions received from online audience

40 posts shares across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Weibo garnering 732,371 impressions and 28,972 engagements

Top viewership came from Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand


This session of UNEP's 'Planet Unplugged' was dedicated to the launch of the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies

‘Planet Unplugged’ was held as a dialogue among experts and government representatives on policy and actions to tackle air pollution and mark the first year of celebrations and pave the way for enhanced global awareness and leadership for air quality globally and exchange practical and actionable solutions and strategies.

The event was momderated by Moderator: Ms. Helena Molin Valdes, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat and speakers included:

  • Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP
  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
  • H.E. Dr Cho Myung-Rae, Minister of Environment, Republic of Korea
  • Dr Maria Neira, Director, Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department, WHO
  • Wanjiku Manyara, General Manager, Petroleum Institute of East Africa

The event saw over 303 people in attendance with more than 1200 invitations were sent out.


  • UNEP partnered with GIZ on carrying out awareness raising activities in Johannesburg. This included online competitions in which people were asked to share the different ways in which they are contributing to the reduction of air pollution
  • A hot air balloon was flown between Pretoria and Johannesburg
  • In addition, interviews on national radio and on TV stations were held, i.e, ENCA and Newzroom Africa

There was large scale participation across different government bodies, UN agencies and key partners to make this day a success. The Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety contributed resources to the development the communication assets for the Day while the coordination for the Day was led by UNEP and The Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

We would like to acknowledge the contribution made by all our partners who helped us launch the first ever International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.
"COVID-19 lockdowns have shown that a cleaner sky is possible. Blue skies do lie ahead, but we can only reveal them if we work together to ensure clean air for all people on this planet."- Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP


Created with images by SD-Pictures - "industry sunset pollution" • Olga1205 - "smoke trumpet frost" • truthseeker08 - "hand united together" • Pixelkult - "media social media apps"