The global air pollution crisis is killing more than 6 million people a year. Air quality has been identified as the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, poor diet and smoking. Eight in 10 of the cities around the world that monitor the problem exceed the levels at which harm is caused.
The energy industry is a leading source of pollution – including sulphur and nitrogen compounds – that cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people, including children and older people, and can lead to premature death. Energy production and use account for about 85% of particulate matter and almost all of the sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
Another key problem is that about 2.7 billion people around the world are still dependent on wood and waste fires that cause indoor air pollution, affecting women and young children the most.
Air pollution from agriculture should be a concern for governments, as fertilisers used on intensively farmed fields can cause problems both for air pollution and agriculture. Nitrous oxide and ammonia, arising from fertilisers, are more powerful than carbon in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere, and can combine with other emissions to form more harmful gases.