Green urban area in China: Increasing green space is one of the 25 measures in the report. Photo: baona / Getty Images.

According to the report, effectively implementing the 25 measures would result in a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide and a 45% reduction in methane emissions, preventing up to a third of a degree Celsius in global warming. Resulting reductions in ground-level ozone would reduce crop losses by 45% for maize, rice, soy and wheat combined.

Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution related diseases, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. The reductions in outdoor air pollution from the 25 measures could reduce premature mortality in the region by one third, and help avoid about 2 million premature deaths from indoor air pollution.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “It is an unfortunate fact that breathing clean air, the most basic of human needs, has become a luxury in many parts of the world. But there are numerous tried and tested solutions that we can put in place now to solve this problem. Implementing these air quality measures is not only good for health and the environment, it can also boost innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

Implementing the 25 measures is projected to cost US$300–600 billion per year, only about 5% of the projected annual GDP increase of US$12 trillion. In addition to delivering substantial benefits to human health, food production, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, a basket of co-benefits will accrue, including savings on pollution control.

The analysis takes the region’s considerable diversity into account and groups the selected measures into three categories:

  • Conventional emission controls focusing on emissions that lead to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This includes activities like: increased emissions standards and controls on vehicles, power plants, and large- and small-scale industry.
  • Further (next-stage) air-quality measures for reducing emissions that lead to the formation of PM2.5 and are not yet major components of clean air policies in many parts of the region. This includes activities like: Reducing the burning of agricultural and municipal solid waste, preventing forest and peatland fires, and proper management of livestock manure.
  • Measures contributing to development priority goals with benefits for air quality. This includes activities like: providing clean energy for households, improving public transport and promoting the use of electric vehicles, using renewable energy for electricity generation, and working with oil and gas companies to stop flaring and reduce leaks.

The report is a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership (APCAP), and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), and was launched at WHO’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.