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Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon joins calls for more funding to tackle air pollution

Ban Ki Moon’s call comes as a new report from the Clean Air Fund calls for greater collaboration between philanthropic and government-funded efforts

Former Un Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has added his voice to calls for more funding for efforts to tackle air pollution, as a new report today highlighted the “urgent need” for the world to take action to improve global air quality.

Published yesterday on the UN’s first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, the report identifies a total of just $273m in grant funding to directly tackle outdoor air pollution between 2015 and 2019, representing a “tiny fraction” of overall development funding.

“The clean air movement is at a tipping point,” said Ban Ki-moon, who prioritised environmental and climate action during his time as UN Secretary General and currently serves as Chairman of the Republic of Korea National Council of Climate and Air Quality. “Outdoor air pollution is responsible for over four 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.”

Written by researchers at the Clean Air Fund, the report highlights opportunities for collaboration between philanthropic and government-funded efforts to tackle different sources of air pollution. For example, governments tend to focus on implementing technical solutions, it notes, whereas foundations focus on data and research to help improve understanding of the problem and shape effective policies. The report points out that these approaches are strongly complementary, so greater cooperation would help ensure maximum returns on the funds invested.

“This research shows there are opportunities for funders to work together strategically to ensure our efforts support and reinforce each other,” said Dr Maria Neira, director for public health, environment, and social determinants of health departments at the World Health Organisation (WHO). “Every human being has the right to clean air. If we can deliver it, we will also unlock solutions to other critically pressing problems, like climate change and deadly diseases.”

Around 90 per cent of the world’s population breathes air that is damaging their health, according to estimates from the WHO, which describes air pollution “a major risk to public health.”

The need for bolder action to tackle air pollution has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report notes, with exposure to toxic air worsening the health of communities globally and leaving millions predisposed to more severe impacts of the disease.

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