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Building back better: why we must address air pollution to tackle public health and climate change

This webinar was held as part of the United Nation’s International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, which took place online on Monday 7 September, 15:00-16:30 BST. The webinar hosted an expert panel to explore the links between air pollution, health, COVID-19 recovery and climate mitigation, and discussed holistic solutions to address these issues.

7 September 2020 at 15:00 BST

ending at 16:30 BST

Event contact

Frances Dixon

Webinar recording / SEI


Air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk, contributing to 7 million premature deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization. The health impact of air pollution most heavily affects urban and low-income communities. It is also closely linked to climate change, due to overlapping sources of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, and because a subset of air pollutants, called Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, directly contribute to both impacts.

The global lockdown in response to COVID-19 has transformed the way we live and work. The response has significantly reduced air pollution from some sources, and people are seeing blue skies for the first time in their lives. Meanwhile, there is growing evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution can increase the severity and number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Because of this, it is more pertinent than ever to address air pollution.

As the world looks at how to recover from COVID-19, there is a unique opportunity to ‘build back better’ by addressing air pollution, alongside climate, health and development priorities. How can the world build back the economy in the most resilient way? This webinar explores integrated strategies that achieve clean air, benefit human health, contribute to addressing climate change and make progress towards multiple Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Event

This webinar was part of the UN’s International Day of Clean Air for blue skies and drew upon the experiences of a wide range of experts who explored how to address the air pollution problem in a holistic way, and through multiple approaches.

The webinar was chaired by Dr Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna, Air Pollution Research Leader, SEI.

Panellists for the event included:

  • Geraint Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, UK Parliament
  • Professor Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat
  • Dr Eleni Iacovidou, Lecturer in Environmental Management, Brunel University London
  • Dr Chris Malley, Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York
  • Dr Luis Gerardo Ruiz Suárez, General Coordinator of Pollution and Environmental Health, National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC)
  • Dr Yewande Awe, Senior Environmental Engineer, World Bank
  • Dr Sarah West, Centre Director, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York

Closing remarks:

  • Dr Patrick , Air Pollution Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Event organizers

SEI featuring researchers

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna

Reader / Research Leader

SEI York

Chris Malley

Senior Research Fellow

SEI York

Sarah West

Centre Director

SEI York

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