Why we do it

Air pollution is one of the largest threats to human health, our climate and the environment. 41% of cities in the world have pollution that is over 7 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation. A lack of evidence and awareness slows political motivation and action to address this growing global problem. Working together for clean air, we will create a healthier, fairer and more prosperous future for everyone.

The health problem
Air pollution is a critical 
and growing global public health issue.

Almost no urban area experiences air quality that meets the World Health Organization’s guidelines, meaning that nearly everyone who lives in a city is breathing air that is damaging their health. Over 40% of cities globally experience air pollution at least 7 times worse than WHO’s guideline level. This causes a range of health issues, from cradle to grave, with poor air quality attributable to millions of premature deaths every year.

The climate problem
Air pollutants contribute to global heating and cause local environmental degradation.

The main driver of the climate emergency – the burning of fossil fuels – is also the major contributor to air pollution. 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.

The social inequity problem
The most marginalised people are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

Studies show that lower-income and minority groups often experience higher levels of air pollution as they tend to live and work close to industrial facilities and traffic-congested areas. The resulting health issues and reduced life expectancy exacerbate existing societal inequalities, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage and unjust environmental risks.

The economic problem
Air pollution is bad for business.

Employees breathing polluted air are much more likely to get sick and experience reduced cognitive performance. The major health issues caused by air pollution have serious consequences for our economies. Air pollution affects businesses through reduced workforce productivity, work absences, premature deaths and lower crop yields.  Around 1.2 billion workdays are lost globally each year due to air pollution, which could reach 3.8 billion days by 2060. This costs the global economy 6.1% in reduced GDP.

Our solution

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities) calls for cities to become inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Breathe Cities will support measures that accelerate air quality action in cities, leading to a range of benefits.



We can reduce climate harming emissions

Cutting air pollution emissions is an immediate way to protect the planet and mitigate the climate crisis.

We can have healthier people who live longer lives

Clean air helps protect people from cardiovascular disease, strokes, heart attacks and more. It reduces hospitalisations and premature deaths.

We can improve children's health and wellbeing

Reducing air pollution allows children to grow, learn and fulfil their potential.

We can create thriving economies and increased productivity

Cleaner air reduces sick days, improves productivity and supports a more prosperous society.

We can have better mental and physical health

Well-planned public transport systems, walkable streets, and plentiful green spaces make for more active people.

We can live in a more equal and just society

As the most marginalised communities bear the brunt of polluted air, improving urban air quality will improve the lives of vulnerable people.