fbpx Skip to content

Navigation breadcrumbs

  1. Home
  2. Why clean air?
  3. Climate and air pollution

Climate and air pollution

Both air pollution and climate change are mainly caused by burning fossil fuels - and they share many of the same solutions. Cleaning our air is one of the most immediate ways to protect the planet.

Action on air pollution is also climate action

Air pollution is the contamination of air by toxic or polluting particles and gases. 

The causes of climate change are often the same as the causes of air pollution: transport, the power sector, industrial emissions and crop burning.

of all global air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels and biomass

Super pollutants or Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SCLPs) include methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone. These contribute to global warming, cause local environmental degradation and harm human health. Climate change can also worsen air quality, with longer summers, wildfire and drought leading to increased levels of ozone and particulate matter.

As the causes of climate change and air pollution are often the same, it’s vital we tackle these challenges together. That means swapping fossil fuel-based power for renewables, greening public transport, cutting industrial emissions and reducing emissions from agriculture.

The health impacts of air pollution are immense, immediate and urgent. Often, concern about dirty air proves to be catalyst for both people and politicians to act on the climate crisis. When we work towards clean air, we accelerate climate action

Martina Otto – Climate & Clean Air Coalition

But there are signs of progress. Cleaning our air is one of the most immediate ways to protect the planet. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has suggested that climate policies that control air pollution emissions could reduce global warming by 0.5˚C and save the lives of 2.4 million people each year.

Joined up action is essential

Many governments and businesses are failing to tackle air pollution as part of their climate action plans, missing opportunities to improve health, deliver wider economic benefits, and support the poorest people and countries. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), just 17 countries included SLCPs in their national climate action plans in 2021.

Clean air measures can improve air quality, slow global heating, protect ecosystems and deliver a healthier planet for all. Joined up action to tackle dirty air and climate change is essential. Read our recommendations on joined-up action.

Our work on climate and air pollution

We advocate for joined up action at all levels. At the global COP26 climate summit in 2021, we helped launch the first global corporate initiative to tackle air pollution, accelerate climate action and create healthy communities. Read about the Alliance for Clean Air.

Through C40 Cities, we’re working with the world’s biggest cities to support action to meet air quality, climate and public health goals. Learn about C40’s Air Quality programme.

Our work in key geographies supports public engagement on air pollution. We work with policy makers and businesses to set ambitious air quality targets and introduce measures such as Clean Air Zones. Find out about our work in India, EU and UK.

See more on Climate

Joined-up action on clean air and climate

New research shows climate policies could be 50% more effective when they account for air pollution.

The top 7 clean air moments at COP26

Look back on how the issue of air pollution featured at COP26 in Glasgow.