Monitoring air quality

The Global Environment Monitoring System for Air (GEMS/Air) catalyzes scalable innovation using science and technology know-how, to enable developing country governments to drive transformation that improves the air their citizens breathe.

3 pillars


GEMS/Air has developed an adaptive strategy that aims at empowering governments and other stakeholders to make evidence-based decisions through increased access and use of air quality data. Our strategy identifies 3 key strategic actions to facilitate transformation towards cleaner air:

Innovation LabsInnovation Labs are piloted through pilot projects. These can include validating market interests related to investment in monitoring or assessing how low-cost sensors meet the use case of interested countries. Innovation labs of the current GEMS/Air portfolio have focused on the application of low-cost sensors. However, going forward it will include the application of satellite surface estimates for pollution hotspots or the utility of re-analysis, or application of non-tradition business models to sustain monitoring through private sector engagement and marketing. Innovation labs are not research projects, they are experiments with beneficiaries, that are meant to seed innovative approaches to problem solving at local and national level.

Solution Space

The Solution Space defined through the innovation labs provides insight towards solutions that can be upscaled, replicated and adapted in similar context. An example of a solution space is the launch of the real-time interactive map that provides estimates of PM2.5 globally. It reaches over 50 million users through its mobile phone app and attracts more than 300 million users annually to our partner website (IQAir). This platform demonstrates the potential of a strong partnership with IQAir to maximize reach with IQAir to maximize reach and crowd source air quality of air quality data for PM2.5 to support advocacy efforts at scale.


An optimal approach to catalyzing action is to reduce duplication, combine efforts and leverage shared knowledge. The creation of the global consortium for better air quality data (CBAQd) is a key element of this strategy that will facilitate implementing scalable solutions. It is designed around convening communities of academia, practice, policy makers, non-state actors, private sector, and financing entities, to improve coordination and collaboration towards a common agenda. The collective expertise of the CBAQd, is envisioned to support the function of the solution space by vetting ideas to appraise those that have scaling potential.

In partnership with IQAir, UNEP hosts the world's largest databank for fine particulate matter PM 2.5. i.e. particulate matter with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller in size. This database is an example of the potential of crowdsourcing air pollution data. It provides an interactive map that shows real-time estimates for PM2.5 from thousands of governments, researchers, and citizen contributors. This online tool uses this data to estimate local air pollution and age disaggregated exposure to air pollution in each country.


GEMS Air Strategic Plan

The GEMS Air strategic focus aims to drive transformation in the shortest time possible. Learn more

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Contact us

For more information, please contact Mr. Sean Khan sean.khan[at]un.org.