Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: The Air Quality Awareness Week Panel Kick-off

Friday, April 26, 2019

Air Quality Awareness Week is an occasion to discuss the importance of air quality and the harmful impacts of air pollution on human health, the economy, and the environment.

Additionally, activities during Air Quality Awareness Week remind people to check the Air Quality Index to understand the best time of day to be active outside or when to reduce or avoid outdoor activity.

Air pollution is a large and growing global threat to human health with significant economic consequences. An estimated 6.9 million deaths, or over 10% of worldwide deaths, were due to air pollution in 2016.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we can do something about it. As you may know, the United States had similar problems in the 1970s. But we were able to clean the air in the following years. We learned, through painful experience, that this required four key ingredients:

First, our government reacted to public concern. Second, our government provided free and accurate air quality data to the public. Third, we passed a good law, called the Clean Air Act. Finally, we strongly enforced that law.

By following these steps, it is possible to have both clean air and a growing economy.

Vietnam can also achieve clean air. It is something the Vietnamese people value, and the government wants to achieve. And we are happy to partner with you to achieve this shared goal.

The United States’ role is to share our hard-won experience and serve as a resource. That is why we are hosting this event today. It’s why our Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City hosted a similar event on Wednesday and why many of the 34 U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world that have air quality monitors are hosting similar events.

I’d like to end on a personal note. I care about air quality for the same reasons all of you care. I want the people who work with me at the Embassy, both Americans and Vietnamese, to breathe clean air. I want their families to enjoy breathing clean air, too.

I hope you will learn from our panelists today, and that you will ask them tough questions. The more we learn about air quality, and the more we work together, the more successful we will be.

My thanks to Live and Learn for co-organizing this event with us. And most importantly, my thanks to all of you for attending.