Improving air quality

Air pollution is the single largest, environmentally-related global health risk of our time, killing approximately 6.5 million people globally every year.

In North America, 125 million Americans live in municipalities with unsafe levels of air pollution and nearly 6,500 Canadians die annually from poor air quality.  

UN Environment is focused on improving air quality to protect human health through the global BreatheLife campaign. The initiative, led by UN Environment, the World Health Organization and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), aims to mobilize cities to institute policies to protect our health and the planet from the effects of air pollution.

Washington, D.C. became the first U.S. city to join the BreatheLife movement in 2017, planning to cut emissions by 80 per cent before 2050. Vancouver, B.C., the first Canadian city, joined BreatheLife in 2018—also entering the race to become the world’s “greenest city.”

Short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon and methane, are major contributors to climate change and air pollution. The CCAC was launched by UN Environment, the U.S., Canada and other member nations to reduce these pollutants and slow down global warming by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. Reducing short-lived climate pollutants can decrease disease, increase food security, improve diets and increase physical activity.

Vehicle emissions are the main source of outdoor air pollution globally. Due to poor fuel quality and weak vehicle regulations around the world, vehicle emissions are on the rise. The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, launched by UN Environment, countries and civil society, supports governments adopting cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicle technologies and standards. The partnership has been most successful in the global elimination of leaded petrol, reducing the number of countries currently using it today to only six.