Air quality is a major issue in most large cities worldwide, but it also impacts on the surrounding rural and peri-urban areas. Rapid industrialization, private transport and residential heating are the main culprits behind the decrease in air quality recently registered by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Over 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the WHO limits. According to the latest urban air quality database, an astounding 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100.000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.
When it comes to our air, what happens at ground level and what happens in the upper atmosphere are connected and should be addressed in a complementary way.
As the Climate Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) has pointed out, the work of reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), among which the infamous PM2.5 and PM10 (organic particles, or particulate matter measuring between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter), is complementary to the effort to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2).
SCLP mitigation has shown to have a significant potential to reduce near-term (20-40 years) global warming. It also prevents millions of premature deaths from small particulate pollution.
Combining SLCP and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction efforts in cities can have co-benefits in terms of air quality. This is an approach ICLEI recommends to local governments – integrated efforts that offer a win-win solution to the community. In fact, 43% of the over 6,200 actions registered by cities in the carbonn Climate Registry, are reported as positively improving air quality.
So, here are five examples of cities that have been very successful in reducing their air pollution levels, sharing a brief peek at what they are doing to mitigate climate change, clean up their energy and transport sector and build resilience.