Funding fossil fuels
Fossil-fuel combustion accounts for about two-thirds of human exposure to outdoor air pollution – it is also the main driver of climate change.
The research also shows that governments have spent 21% more in development assistance on projects that prolong fossil fuel usage ($1.50 billion in 2019 and 2020) than they did on projects with a primary objective of reducing air pollution (around $1.24 billion).
The International Energy Agency has called for a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the target agreed by governments in Paris in 2015. The IPCC’s historic climate report sounded a ‘death knell’ for the coal and fossil fuel industry.
‘There must be no new coal plants built after 2021. OECD countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040. Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.’
UN Secretary General
Funding from philanthropic foundations to clean air projects increased by 17% in 2020 to $44.7 million. However, despite over 4.2 million people dying every year as a result of outdoor air pollution, these figures amount to just 0.1% of philanthropic grants worldwide.
The report also highlights that grant-making to air quality by foundations is largely restricted to climate, environment and energy funders, while the money is mainly directed to North America, Europe, India, China and global projects.
Funding from official development sources is hugely unequal, with little reaching the hardest hit areas. Africa and Latin America receive just 5% and 10% of aid funding respectively, despite housing some of the world’s most polluted cities and regions. 80% of aid goes via loans to middle-income countries in Asia.
There are significant opportunities for more collaboration and complementary approaches between foundations focused on climate, health and equity, as well as between governments and philanthropic foundations.
‘Clean air initiatives can be a secret weapon against some of the world’s most pressing challenges but governments are largely ignoring them. We can tackle climate change, save lives and fight inequality at the same time if we invest more and work together. Governments that address this blind spot can rapidly deliver huge benefits for people.’
Executive director and founder of the Clean Air Fund