Air pollution relegated to philanthropic margins, says Clean Air Fund


Shafi Musaddique


Improving air quality is relegated to just a tiny 0.1 per cent of total philanthropic funding, despite some 8.3 million deaths attributed to air pollution globally in what has been described as “one of the most pressing challenges of our time”.  

A new report published by the Clean Air Fund, citing data from ClimateWorks Foundation, found that philanthropic foundations spent $330 million towards outdoor air quality projects between 2015 and 2022.  

New entrants such as the Bezos Fund and the Earthshot Prize have been credited with boosting funding, with repeat granters such as the Clean Air Fund also part of the ecosystem.  

Total funding from re-granters amounted to over $30 million between 2021 and 2022. 

Regional disparities, particularly for the Global South, are particularly stark. Foundation funding in Africa and Latin America make up only 1 per cent ($1.9 million) and 2 per cent ($5.7 million) of total outdoor air quality funding between 2015 and 2022 respectively. 

Half of the countries deemed to have the most toxic air belong in Africa.  

The report also cites low investment in the collection of air quality data, which received only 12 per cent of the total funding in 2022.  

Only half of the world’s governments publicly share air quality data. 

The Clean Air Fund say foundations have an opportunity to prioritise air pollution ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting taking place in Davos, Switzerland, between 15-19 January. 

“Funding for air quality from foundations has increased but remains a miniscule proportion of total philanthropic funding. Air pollution is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, with 99 per cent of the world still breathing toxic air. I urge funders to recognise that air quality isn’t a niche issue and work together to tackle the problem. By doing so, we can act on climate change, improve our health, strengthen economic outputs, and address social inequality all at the same time,” said Jane Burston, CEO of the Clean Air Fund. 

Shafi Musaddique is news editor at Alliance magazine. 

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