Air pollution will continue rising in the next decades unless nations around the world invest trillions in cleaner energy and emissions controls, the International Energy Agency said.
The Paris-based agency is calling for governments to adopt a strategy to cut pollutants by half, a plan that would add about 7 percent to the total energy investment needed through 2040, according to a report Monday. That includes $4.8 trillion for advanced pollution control and accelerating the transformation of the energy industry.
“Clean air is a basic human right that most of the world’s population lacks,” said Executive Director Fatih Birol. “We need to revise our approach to energy development so that communities are not forced to sacrifice clean air in return for economic growth.”
The IEA’s strategy pushes for cleaner fuels, energy efficiency, better cooking facilities and emissions controls. It also calls for a collective long-term air quality goal, policies for implementation and regulations to monitor and enforce it. The agency said the efforts may cut pollution-related deaths by more than 3 million a year.
Poor air quality is affecting the entire planet, with 80 percent of cities that monitor levels failing to meet standards set by the World Health Organization. Public pressure is mounting in countries such as China, prompting ambitious renewable energy agendas. The developed West also has its fair share of smog, with London surpassing the EU’s annual limits on air pollution just eight days into 2016.
The energy industry is the single largest man-made contributor to poor air quality, the IEA report said. Most of it comes from unregulated and inefficient fuels. The agency sees air pollution as the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, poor diet and smoking.
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