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News 2 December 2023

Breathe Cities: more cities join global initiative to fight air pollution

9 cities in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe will join London and Warsaw to receive support to clean their air as part of a $30 million initiative supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Clean Air Fund and C40 Cities. Breathe Cities aims to contribute to cutting air pollution by 30% by 2030 and prevent 39,000 premature deaths in selected cities

Today, during the COP28 Local Climate Action Summit, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Clean Air Fund, and C40 Cities announced a new cohort of cities to benefit from funding, technical support, air quality data, community engagement, capacity building, and additional support as part of the Breathe Cities clean air initiative. This $30 million initiative, launched earlier this year, aims to reduce air pollution, slash carbon emissions, and enhance public health. 

The new cohort of Breathe Cities is a diverse group of global cities including: Accra, Ghana; Brussels, Belgium; Jakarta, Indonesia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Milan, Italy; Nairobi, Kenya; Paris, France; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Sofia, Bulgaria. The group joins together with Breathe Cities’ pilot programmes launched in Warsaw, Poland in 2022 and London, United Kingdom in 2019. 

Breathe Cities builds on existing efforts led by Bloomberg Philanthropies, C40 Cities, and the Clean Air Fund in many of these cities to track air pollution and shape public advocacy and policy measures to reduce pollution. Now, convening under one banner and with dedicated support, the cities announced today will join together in a first-of-its-kind partnership to exchange knowledge and scale local impact. 

Carefully selected for their commitment to advancing ambitious policies addressing the dual challenges of air pollution and climate emissions, the participating local governments were chosen based on criteria such as geographic diversity, air pollution and emissions intensity, engaged civil society, strong political interest and leadership, scalability potential, and capacity to implement action plans, among other metrics. 

Through an evidence-based strategy, combining data, policy, and community engagement, Breathe Cities has the ambitious goal of contributing to reducing air pollution by 30% on average across participating cities by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. Such a bold reduction would prevent an estimated 39,000 premature deaths and around 79,000 new cases of asthma in children each decade, saving $107 billion in avoided hospitalizations and deaths. By 2030, a total of 284 Megatonnes of CO2e emissions would be avoided among participating cities – a monumental win for both people and the planet.

Empowering cities to tackle air pollution will have a direct impact on public health and wellbeing and unlock a host of wider economic and environmental benefits. Our partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40 Cities will bring together a robust network of cities to share valuable lessons and success stories while also advancing the adoption of innovative new technologies and research and supporting local efforts to implement effective solutions.

Jane Burston, CEO, Clean Air Fund

Breathe Cities was launched in June 2023 as a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Clean Air Fund, and C40 Cities to save lives, improve health, and reduce air pollution that is both harmful to public health and the climate.

Air pollution is one of the most urgent global issues. Almost no urban area has air quality that meets the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. 41% of cities have air pollution over seven times higher than WHO’s recommendation, meaning their residents are breathing dangerously polluted air that can cause a suite of health issues such as asthma and respiratory illnesses. Air pollution is also associated with 7 million premature deaths each year. And worldwide, air pollution costs the global economy $8.1 trillion, the equivalent of 6.1% of global GDP. Residents who live in cities where density, geography, and pollution from transportation and industry pose unique daily hazards live face to face with this reality.

Find out more about Breathe Cities.