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Collaboration between air quality funds could save countless lives

Greater collaboration between those funding efforts to tackle air pollution could save countless lives and deliver a wide range of health, environmental and development benefits, according to a new report published by the Clean Air Fund. 

In the report, titled ‘The State of Global Air Quality Funding,’ the Clean Air Fund has provided a global overview of funding for air quality initiatives. 

Between 2015 and 2018, there was an average annual growth rate of over 50% in air quality grant-making from leading foundations. 

However, in 2019, this funding fell for the first time since 2015. 

According to the report, this was driven by a drop in the number of foundation funders making grants.

The US and China were by far the biggest contributors, collectively making up more than half (56%) of funding.  However, in 2019, the US saw a 45% decline in air quality funding compared to the previous year. 

The authors of the report have highlighted that the need to monitor air pollution went up the agenda in 2019, with 44% of foundation grant-making spent on ‘data’ and supporting the deployment of low-cost sensors. 

Currently, the majority of clean air funding is granted by foundations who are primarily focused on the climate and environment, with health donors representing just 3% of total grant-making. 

Air pollution is increasingly being understood as a public health issue and is becoming more prominent in the strategies of health-focused foundations, therefore the Clean Air Fund have said they expect health foundations to increase their air quality funding in the coming years. 

Kate Langford, programme director on the health effects of air pollution at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, one of the leading financial contributors to the Clean Air Fund said: ‘Similar to the other health issues we work on, air quality is an issue of health inequality, with the negative impacts most keenly felt by certain vulnerable groups.

‘As such, we find solutions and focus on groups whose health is most impacted by air pollution: children, older people and people with heart and lung conditions.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated clearly that health outcomes are the result of inter-related determinants
of health, like where we work and live.

‘We see tackling air pollution as key to addressing the systemic causes of health inequalities faced by urban communities and welcome a broad coalition of foundations and other actors turning their attention to addressing these inequalities and achieving clean air for all.’

Going forward, the authors of the report have recommended that foundations and official donors work together in order to develop complementary programmes that can achieve a greater impact. 

By highlighting the broad benefits of tackling air pollution, from economic development, children’s health, as well as climate improvements, the authors have said that this could help to grow the number and diversity of funders.

Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and currently Chairman, Republic of Korea National Council of Climate and Air Quality, commented on this report: ‘The clean air movement is at a tipping point. Outdoor air pollution is responsible for over 4 million deaths every year.

‘It shares many of the same causes as climate change, for which we are dangerously close to a point of no return.

‘At the same time, political will to tackle air pollution is rising. In this context, this report gives an important basis for targeting funding where it is most urgently needed and allows funders to see who else is working on similar or complementary projects.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay 

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