First International Clean Air Day for Blue Skies highlights urgent need for more resources and global collaboration to tackle pollution
(Add a comment from the UN, the city’s commitments)
By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, September 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Funding to expand air pollution control efforts is well below what is needed in a world where nine out of ten people breathe air that is harmful to their health – a problem put highlighted by the pandemic, researchers said Monday.
A report released to mark the first International Clean Air Day for Blue Skies showed that grant funding for initiatives to reduce air pollution amounted to $ 273 million from 2015 to 2019.
It’s a tiny fraction of development aid provided by governments and philanthropic organizations – but spending more money on clean air could also boost other global goals, he said.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in a foreword that outdoor air pollution is responsible for more than 4 million deaths each year, but the political will to tackle the problem increases as the evidence for damage becomes clearer.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how the world can pull itself together in the face of “an existential threat,” Ban wrote. He called for global collaboration and bold leadership to tackle poor air quality.
“With a strategic approach and with sufficient resources to purify our air, we can improve health, strengthen resilience to future pandemics, increase productivity, reduce health costs and help fight climate change,” he said. -he adds.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, told an online event that lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus showed “clearer skies are possible,” but halting economies and keeping the children at home was not the way to go.
“What we want to do is have a green transition. What we want to see is that the stimulus funds that are now available are put into a greener future for tomorrow,” she added. .
In the new report, the nonprofit Clean Air Fund, which fights and raises air pollution, tracked $ 118 million in grants from philanthropic foundations to improve air quality. outdoors in the past five years.
At least an additional $ 155 million came from official donors, including governments and development banks, he said.
This compares to nearly $ 153 billion in total development assistance from rich governments around the world in 2019.
The air quality funding measured in the report has supported projects ranging from technology to measure air pollution levels and sources to education campaigns, installing scrubbers in industrial chimneys and the introduction of cleaner electric buses.
The study found that loans to improve air quality were much higher than grants, with $ 2.4 billion spent on this goal over the five-year period, mainly to support activities in China, which launched a major offer to reduce pollution.
Matt Whitney of the Clean Air Fund told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that although grant funding declined between 2018 and 2019, the general trend was for it to grow.
While aid may be reduced due to short-term economic recessions, studies have shown how respiratory and heart conditions linked to air pollution make people more likely to contract and suffer from severe symptoms of COVID -19, he said.
The closures had also revealed how quickly air quality could be improved with less traffic and industrial activity, making urban areas more livable, he noted.
“There really is an opportunity to tackle this problem. We know what the solutions are, the benefits can be felt immediately, and who doesn’t want healthier people and cleaner air?” he said.
DESIRE FOR CHANGE
In a survey conducted by the Clean Air Fund in May and June, at least two-thirds of UK, Indian, Nigerian, Polish and Bulgarian citizens said they supported stricter regulation to fight against air pollution.
In Nigeria and India, more than 90% of respondents want improved air quality in their region.
Monday, the capital of Colombia Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil joins 35 other cities in the world by recognizing that breathing clean air is a human right and committing to setting targets to reduce pollution and implement clean air policies by 2025.
“The pandemic has taught us that we need to change the way we work, consume and travel,” said the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López. It meant burning less gasoline and diesel, and more walking and cycling, she added.
Whitney of the Clean Air Fund said spending development aid on cleaner public transport was an efficient use of the money because it tackled both air quality and climate change while allowing people have easier access to jobs and services.
Governments could also improve air quality by enforcing pollution controls on power plants or offering incentives to prevent farmers from burning stubble near cities, he added.
The report urged governments and foundations to unite their efforts for cleaner air for wider reach and impact.
“If we can provide (clean air), we will also unlock solutions to other extremely urgent problems, such as climate change and deadly diseases,” said Maria Neira, director of the department of public health and environment of the World Health Organization.
“The benefits would reach the poorest and most vulnerable first,” she added.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; edited by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http: // news .trust.org / climat)
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