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Blog 15 November 2021

COP26 response – the ‘clean air gap’

What happened at COP26 and what does it mean for air pollution? Clean Air Fund responds to the final negotiated text and calls for governments to make action on air pollution an explicit priority in climate action.

By tackling air pollution governments can accelerate climate change mitigation and reap huge health benefits. At COP26 in Glasgow we know there was insufficient progress made to limit warming to 1.5°C and governments missed the opportunity to advance human health, by failing to integrate air pollution measures into climate mitigation.

Air pollution is still treated as a separate issue by most governments and largely ignored in their climate negotiations, to the detriment of public health, climate and inequality. Indeed, the COP26 final text contains not one mention of air pollution, one of the biggest health and climate challenges we face.

The process leading up to COP27 in Egypt provides the opportunity to right this wrong. Governments need to do much better at taking a joined-up approach to action on climate change and improving air quality to reap the health and economic benefits. That’s why as we look towards Egypt’s COP27 Presidency, air quality needs to be top of the agenda.

As governments head home to plan their action and pledges for COP27, we urge them to make action on air pollution an explicit priority in climate action. They must:

  • Stop all new public investment into fossil fuels. It’s the only way to clean up our children’s air and protect our climate.
  • Ramp up funding commitments to support clean air. Without additional new grant funding for air quality projects, low- and middle-income countries won’t be able to make a just transition to clean air solutions.
  • Take integrated action on air pollution and climate change, through coordination and alignment nationally, shared regional approaches and stronger global institutional mechanisms.

As they arrive home from the COP26 talks, world leaders leave a significant ‘clean air gap’. Given the unprecedented level of discussions in Glasgow about air pollution and the dangerous impacts it has on health globally, albeit outside the formal talks, it is disappointing that governments didn’t seize the moment and put tackling the air pollution crisis at the heart of climate action. Governments must start to take bold, tangible actions and increase their financial commitments as they look ahead to COP27. It’s a win-win.”

Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund