Fund Launched to Reduce Air Pollution, Premature Deaths

Fund Launched to Reduce Air Pollution, Premature Deaths

A coalition of philanthropic funders has announced the launch of a Clean Air Fund focused on addressing global air pollution.

Launched with $50 million in initial funding from the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Guy's & St. Thomas' Charity, the IKEA Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the FiA Foundation and additional support from the London-based Wellcome Trust, the fund aims to raise an additional $50 million for efforts to address global outdoor air pollution, which contributes to 4.2 million deaths annually — more than from malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined. To that end, the fund will work to coordinate resources from funders focused on climate change mitigation, children, and health; connect partners and share best practices to ensure that the most effective local solutions are scaled and replicated; and lead a collective strategy to maximize impact in reducing the incidence of pollution-related diseases and premature death.

In conjunction with the announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Summit, the fund released a report highlighting funding trends in recent years and the historical lack of global philanthropic support for efforts to reduce outdoor air pollution. According to Clearing the Air: The State of Global Philanthropy on Air Quality (12 pages, PDF), while funding to improve air quality increased from $8.9 million awarded by nine funders in 2015 to $29.6 million awarded by twenty-nine funders in 2018, the amount remains small in proportion to the health impacts and in comparison to funding for other health issues. The study also found that more than three-quarters of air quality funding between 2015 and 2018 went to projects in just three countries — China (41 percent), the United States (18 percent), and India (18 percent) — while funding for projects across other countries and projects that are global in nature received only 10 percent. The report's recommendations for funders include significantly boosting air quality grantmaking, awarding grants in low-income countries, and increasing collaboration with other funders as well as development agencies to achieve the greatest possible impact in the shortest time frame.

"With 90 percent of all human beings breathing unhealthy air and 4.2 million deaths — including three hundred thousand children — attributable to outdoor air pollution, this constitutes a public health and environmental crisis," said Clean Air Fund executive director Jane Burston. "The time to act is now. Without aggressive intervention, the number of outdoor air pollution deaths is on track to increase by more than 50 percent by 2050. The Clean Air Fund is focused on ensuring that philanthropy steps up to the challenge. Tackling air pollution will not just save millions of lives but brings multiple benefits to issues including climate change, children's development, and equity all across the globe."