The United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020 caused dramatic but short-lived improvements in air quality and drops in pollution, especially in urban areas but warned the blip was no substitute for long-term action.
But they also spurred an increase in some pollutants that were both hazardous to health and had an unclear impact on climate change, a new report on Friday said.
The WMO’s report that was based on studies of how key air pollutants behaved in and around dozens of cities around the world showed decreases of up to 40 percent in small particle concentrations during full lockdown compared with the same periods in 2015-2019.
“COVID-19 proved to be an unplanned air-quality experiment,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
“It did lead to temporary localised improvements,” he added.
“But a pandemic is not a substitute for sustained and systematic action to tackle major drivers of both pollution and climate change and so safeguard the health of both people and planet.”
Air pollution, especially involving small particles, seriously affects human health, and is linked to millions of deaths each year.