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Governments spent 21% more aid on fossil fuel than air quality projects

Governments spent more aid on fossil fuel projects than they did on air quality projects in 2019 and 2020, according to a new study conducted by the Clean Air Fund. 

Overall, the new State of Global Air Quality Funding report found that between 2015-2020, governments and philanthropic organisations spent $5.72 billion on clean air projects, a gradual increase over the period. 

However, preliminary figures suggest that this funding dipped by 10% from 2019 ($1.47 billion) to 2020 ($1.33 billion).

The research also shows that governments spent 21% more in development assistance on projects that prolong fossil fuel usage ($1.50 billion in 2019 and 2020) than they did on projects with a primary objective of reducing air pollution (around $1.24 billion).

silhouette of building under white clouds during daytime

The report also highlights that:

  • Grant-making to air quality by foundations is largely restricted to climate, environment and energy funders, while the money is mainly directed to North America, Europe, India, China and global projects.
  • Funding from official development sources is hugely unequal, with little reaching the hardest-hit areas. Africa and Latin America receive just 5% and 10% of aid funding respectively, despite housing some of the world’s most polluted cities and regions. 80% of aid goes via loans to middle-income countries in Asia.
  • There are significant opportunities for more collaboration and complementary approaches between foundations focused on climate, health and equity, as well as between governments and philanthropic foundations. 

Jane Burston, executive director and founder of the Clean Air Fund said: ‘Governments are investing more aid in prolonging fossil fuel use than in protecting the 9 out of 10 of us breathing harmful and dirty air right now. With public health such a huge global priority and the world waking up to the scale of the climate challenge, this makes no sense at all. The good news is it can quickly change. We urgently need more funding, stronger targets and better collaboration to deliver clean air, for all our sakes.

‘Clean air initiatives can be a secret weapon against some of the world’s most pressing challenges but governments are largely ignoring them. We can tackle climate change, save lives and fight inequality at the same time if we invest more and work together. Governments that address this blind spot can rapidly deliver huge benefits for people.’

Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy

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