In a significant move towards addressing air pollution, the World Bank has announced a monumental pledge of $1 billion to bolster clean air projects worldwide.

This commitment aims to de-risk investments in air quality initiatives and stimulate further investment in sustainable solutions.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a subsidiary of the World Bank, revealed the substantial financial guarantee during the recent Spring Meetings. This pledge underscores a growing recognition of the urgent need to combat air pollution and its detrimental effects on health and the environment.

Juergen Voegele, Vice-President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, highlighted the importance of such initiatives. He emphasized the necessity of redirecting financial resources towards clean air projects, especially considering the significant economic toll of air pollution.

“Do not believe it when somebody tells you there is no money for air quality. The same countries that say they have no money are putting huge amounts into fossil fuel subsidies”

Air pollution ranks as the fifth largest contributor to global health risks, yet this critical global health and environmental concern often receives inadequate attention from development funders, encompassing governments, multilateral development banks, and bilateral development agencies.

In 2019 alone, over one million lives were lost in Africa due to polluted air. Additionally, toxic emissions from coal, oil, and gas combustion in 2018 led to the premature deaths of more than 9 million individuals worldwide.

The $1 billion guarantee is poised to play a pivotal role in catalyzing investments in air quality improvement projects. With this financial backing, the World Bank aims to mitigate risks associated with such endeavours and facilitate the mobilization of additional funds from various stakeholders.

This new commitment aligns with the broader efforts of the international community to address air pollution comprehensively. As nations strive to achieve cleaner air and healthier environments, initiatives like the World Bank's guarantee offer hope for tangible progress in the fight against air pollution.

Jane Burston, CEO of an environmental organization, emphasized the importance of partnerships and collective action in tackling air pollution. She stated, "To tackle air pollution, we need a new vision for partnerships, acting in the interests of everyone. We must recognize we have a collective responsibility to provide affordable, sustainable solutions across the world"

Between 2015 and 2020, international development funders channeled a staggering $14.6 billion into projects extending the use of fossil fuels, dwarfing the commitment to addressing air quality, which amounted to a mere $403.6 million, a discrepancy of 36 times. Despite the severity of the issue, from 2015 to 2021, these funders directed only $11 billion to air pollution mitigation efforts, averaging $1.5 billion annually. Shockingly, this constitutes just 0.5% of their total commitments. For every $1,000 spent, a paltry $5 was allocated to combat ambient air pollution, which stands as the fifth largest health risk globally. In Africa, where 26% of global deaths from outdoor air pollution occur, international development funders allocated a disproportionately low $403.6 million between 2015 and 2021, representing a mere 3.7% of total air quality funding.

The World Bank's announcement comes amid increasing global awareness of the devastating impacts of air pollution on public health and the environment. By channeling substantial financial resources into clean air projects, the institution demonstrates its commitment to fostering a sustainable and healthy future for all.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives. Funding was provided by the Clean Air Fund. The funder had no say in the content of the story

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