Air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental killer.
It leads to four million early deaths per year, however, according to the Clean Air Fund (CAF), only 1% of global development aid is used to address the issue.
Poor air quality kills more people than HIV/Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. However, HIV/Aids projects receive 34 times more funding than air pollution.
“When you see the incredibly and chronically low levels of funding on the one hand, and the chronically high levels of public health impacts on the other, it becomes quite obvious that more funding is needed,” said Jane Burston, from the CAF.
“Air pollution is a massive health crisis, but a lot of the projects that would reduce pollution also help limit climate change, because they’re about reducing fossil fuel burning. There can be massive wins for equity too, because the poorest communities are often the most affected by air pollution, wherever you are in the world.”
Between 2015-2020, almost $6bn in aid was given to air quality programmes. Almost half of this was given to China, which has cut air pollution by 29%.
“Africa is where pollution is most likely to grow, because of rapid urbanisation, so there’s a huge opportunity there to tackle air pollution before it gets horrifically bad,” added Burston.
“We’re not saying malnutrition, water and sanitation, and HIV/Aids projects should get less money. Deaths from these are absolutely dropping off as a consequence of large amounts of funding being spent well, but air pollution just isn’t on the same scale at all.”