Dirty air is the world’s biggest environmental killer, responsible for at least 4m early deaths a year. Air pollution kills more people than HIV/Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined
Governments around the world gave 20% more in overseas aid funding to fossil fuel projects in 2019 and 2020 than to programmes to cut the air pollution they cause.
When compared in terms of years of life lost, HIV/Aids projects received 34 times more funding, while malnutrition programmes received seven times more. Increasing funding to similar levels to tackle air pollution would save many lives, experts said.
Jane Burston, at the Clean Air Fund explained, “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,” adding: “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.
Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said air quality funding did not match the scale of the problem: “Our relentless burning of fossil fuels pollutes our air, costing the global economy billions of dollars each year. Ending the financing of fossil-fuel development and instead investing in growing clean, carbon-free economies will bring immediate benefits. It will save many lives.” Unep found that one third of the world’s countries have no legal limits in air pollution and that, in those nations that do, the limits are often weaker than WHO guidelines.