A handful of European philanthropies have banded together to create the Clean Air Fund to support projects combatting air pollution, and to cut global deaths and health problems stemming from dirty air.

Announced at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, the fund launched with $50 million, which the founding partners said tops the $30 million philanthropies gave to air pollution projects last year.

The Fund’s creators are seeking to cut carbon emissions and reduce other particulates that have caused health problems around the world.

“Without aggressive intervention, the number of deaths is on track to increase by more than 50% by 2050.”

Founding partners, including the IKEA Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Oak Foundation, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the FIA Foundation, hope to raise $100 million.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 91% of the world’s population — about seven billion people – breathe unhealthy air. The organization also attributes about 4.2 million deaths annually to poor air quality. The total is more than deaths from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids combined. 

“Without aggressive intervention, the number of deaths is on track to increase by more than 50% by 2050,” Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund, said in a statement. 

The Fund expects that reducing air pollution will help curb climate change and improve children’s development. 

  • Air pollution is responsible for more than one-third of global deaths from stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease, WHO said.
  • World leaders and environmentalists at the United Nations Climate Action Summit called on countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that have pushed temperatures to the highest levels on record. Seventy-seven countries promised to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.
  • The group also published an air pollution report summarizing the growth in pollution mitigation efforts funded by philanthropies. The report said that while funding is increasing three-quarters of the money was spent in China, India and the U.S.

Karma Takeaway: The Fund reaches a stark conclusion: “The amount of funding to outdoor air quality projects must urgently increase, as the current level of funding directed to the issue is not proportional to the scale of the problem.”