WHO Launches “Clean Air Coalition”; New Clean Air Fund To Be Announced Tomorrow

NEW YORK CITY – WHO said Sunday that it was launching a “Clean Air Coalition” led by the Governments of Spain and Peru, while a group of philanthropic organizations and foundations were poised to launch a new “Clean Air Fund” at Monday’s Climate Summit to spur investment in reducing sources of air pollution, which also contribute to climate change.

A factory in the United States emitting smoke into the atmosphere.

Some 29 countries and over 50 subnational entities have pledged to join the coalition committed to achieving healthy air quality by 2030, as part of their Climate Summit pledges, said Spain’s Health Minister María Luisa Carcedo, speaking at a WHO-organized side event on Sunday, the day before the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit brings together heads of state.

The Clean Air Coalition is also being supported by the UN Secretary General’s Office and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of UN Environment, said WHO’s Director of Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira.

As for the new Clean Air Fund being formally launched tomorrow, Executive Director Jane Burston, said that the fund brings together “a group of like-minded philanthropic foundations” which have recognized that tackling air pollution will have “huge benefits for health as well as for climate.”

“Clean Air Fund” launch announced at a WHO-sponsored side event.

Burston said that a report being published by the new fund tomorrow surveyed the funding landscape and found that philanthropic investment in air quality initiatives is disproportionately low in comparison to the burden disease caused by air pollution – which is estimated to kill some 7 million people around the world every year.

Additionally, the report found that most money is spent only in a few countries – even though WHO estimates that over 90% of people around the world breathe unhealthy air.

“As a result of very limited funding on air quality, deaths from outdoor air pollution and ozone alone are forecast to double by 2050… we just cannot let that happen,” Burston said.

She said that the new Clean Air Fund aims to support projects that “democratize” air quality data, making knowledge about air quality more widely accessible to large numbers of people in cities, through projects such as the Breathe London project.  Breathe London has created a network of mobile sensors that allow children to decide how best to walk to school and parents to identify pollution hot spots.

The new Clean Air Fund will also support “ambitious local government action,” Burston added, noting that they were working with cities that are part of the C-40 network to broaden air quality monitoring as well as with Pure Earth on a mapping of potential air quality interventions and documentation of how those support climate and health goals.

Although she did not put a dollar amount, more details of the Fund are to be revealed Monday. Observers predicted that it would amount to an investment of tens of millions of dollars in new air quality efforts.

Any investment, said Burston, would be starting from the current, “incredibly low base” of financial commitments to better air quality.  “We don’t have anywhere the basis that we need to tackle the crisis.”


This story was published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story, co-founded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review.

Image Credits: UN Photo/John Isaac.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.