FIA Foundation delivers inaugural funding for new global air pollution fund

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Jane Burston, Director of the Clean Air Fund opened the event.
Jane Burston, Director of the Clean Air Fund opened the event.
Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation set out the important role of mobility in reducing air pollution during the launch.
Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation set out the important role of mobility in reducing air pollution during the launch.
Cecilia Vaca Jones explained that the Bernard van Leer Foundation is a joint funder of the fund to address the impact of dirty air on babies and young children.
Cecilia Vaca Jones explained that the Bernard van Leer Foundation is a joint funder of the fund to address the impact of dirty air on babies and young children.
Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation spoke about the need for international cooperation.
Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation spoke about the need for international cooperation.

A new philanthropic initiative of $50 million, the first dedicated entirely to addressing air pollution, has been launched with the support of the FIA Foundation. The Clean Air Fund was announced during the United Nations Climate Summit on 23 September in New York.

The Clean Air Fund has $50 million in initial funding with a goal of raising a total of $100 million to address the global outdoor air pollution crisis responsible for 4.2 million deaths worldwide – more than from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids combined.

The Clean Air Fund is a global philanthropic initiative that supports organisations around the world working to combat air pollution, improve human health and accelerate decarbonisation. It aims to: increase the scale of funding currently targeted towards this issue, by tying together resources from funders interested in climate change, children, and health; share best practice and connect partners to ensure the best local solutions are rapidly scaled up and replicated; and lead a collective strategy to ensure interventions can have the most significant impact in reducing the numbers of premature deaths and the incidence of pollution-related diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and heart disease.

The Fund works with a coalition of philanthropic foundation partners who have interests in health, children, mobility, climate change and equity, bringing them together to strengthen their collective investment, voice and impact. Alongside the FIA Foundation, which has committed to $1 million over the next four years, funding partners include IKEA Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

As part of the launch, the Clean Air Fund also released a new report that details the historical lack of philanthropic support to tackle outdoor air pollution and summarizes the trends in global philanthropic foundation funding. In 2017 $800 was spent by foundations for every HIV-related death while just $7 was spent by foundations for every death related to outdoor air pollution.

While the number of foundations funding air quality projects has increased to 29 in 2018, from nine just three years earlier, three-quarters of funding was spent on air quality projects in just three countries: China, India and the USA. Air pollution is a global challenge but the burden on health is disproportionately higher in poorer countries, despite the fact low-income countries currently receive very little for related projects; less than 0.5% of foundation funding on air quality, for examples, is spent across the entire continent of Africa.

"With 90% of all human beings breathing unhealthy air and 4.2 million deaths—including 300,000 children--attributable to outdoor air pollution, this constitutes a public health and environmental crisis. The time to act is now. Without aggressive intervention, the number of outdoor air pollution deaths is on track to increase by more than 50% by 2050. The Clean Air Fund is focused on ensuring that philanthropy steps up to the challenge," said Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund. "Tackling air pollution will not just save millions of lives but brings multiple benefits to issues including climate change, children's development, and equity all across the globe."

"Currently, half of the world's population is living in cities, exposing them to high concentrations of pollutants from vehicles, industry, and energy production. Of them, more than 300 million are children who live in areas where that pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times. This has a terrible impact on their health, potentially leaving them with a lifetime dogged by respiratory, cardiac, and even developmental issues as a result of this exposure. Vehicles are a major contributor to this problem, and too little is being done to address their impact. The movement of people must be prioritised over the movement of vehicles in our cities, or the health risks of urban air pollution will continue to cast a terrible blight, particularly on our children," said Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation.

"A targeted fund to address the causes of air pollution and its impact has never been more vital for our health and our children's future. FIA Foundation is delighted to be one of the first funders of this new and welcome Clean Air Fund, and we will support it as it works on these issues across the world."