Restoring clean air

6.5 million people die annually from exposure to poor air quality.

70% of air pollution related death occur in Asia Pacific.

Air pollution is the most pressing environmental health crisis in the world.  It is responsible for more than 6.5 million deaths annually, the bulk of which – 70 per cent –  occurs in Asia Pacific. In addition to health hazards, air pollution is a threat to the region’s economy, food and water security, and climate systems. This hampers the region’s efforts to grow sustainably and alleviate poverty.

Leading pollutants in the region

Particulate matter

Particulate matter, or PM10 and PM2.5, are fine particles with a diameter of less than 10 and 2.5 micrometers, respectively. Exposure can cause cancer and are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

Sulfur Dioxide

A gas with a sharp smell, generated during the combustion of fossil fuels. In addition to the risk to human respiratory system, when combined with air and water, sulfur dioxide or SO2 can form acid rain.

Nitrogen Oxides

A primary ingredient in acid rain, this group of gasses is released by motor vehicles, industrial emissions and forest fires. Exposure to nitrogen oxide, also known as NOx, may lead to asthma.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Both an indoor and outdoor pollutant, these compounds easily vaporize from solids and liquids such as paints, coatings, gasoline, other solvents, and the ozone depleting hydrofluorocarbons.

Short-lived Climate Pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants are agents with relatively short lifetime that have both global warming influence and severe impact on air quality. Main pollutants are black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone.

Tropospheric Ozone

Formed by reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight, ground level ozone is the main contributor to smog and exposure to it can lead to development of asthma and death.

Black Carbon

Generated by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass, black carbon is a main component of PM2.5.


Produced mainly through decomposition agricultural waste, methane emission can lead to the creation of tropospheric ozone.


Used in air conditioners and refrigeration, solvents, foam blowing agents and aerosols, the climate warming impact of this greenhouse gas, also known as CFCs, is particularly strong.

Air pollution brought about by these pollutants is a common concern in countries and cities in Asia Pacific. They pose a significant threat to human and environmental health particularly in developing countries.

Where do they come from?

Many air pollutants are the result of energy use. The burning of fossil fuels and biomass is the principal source of air pollution in urban and rural areas.

What we are doing?

To achieve a pollution-free Asia Pacific, UN Environment works with governments and stakeholders to facilitate intergovernmental initiatives and networks. We support the development of national and subnational action plans and policies on air quality and relevant sectors, such as transport.  Additionally, we also undertake independent studies on policies at the request of cities and municipalities which offer the best solutions to reduce air pollution.

Some of UN Environment’s support in the region includes:

Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership

Established in 2015, the Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership is a platform for policy makers and stakeholders to share knowledge, tools and innovative solutions to tackle air pollution in the region. It brings together countries, networks and initiatives that focus on clean air in the region.

Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia

The Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia is a science-based network established in 1998 to foster collaboration to combat acid deposition and related atmospheric pollution. It aims to generate shared understanding of acid deposition problems by providing data and information to policy makers and facilitating cooperation among participating countries. UN Environment hosts the secretariat of the network.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is the only global effort that unites government, people and the private sector in committing to improve air quality and protecting the climate by reducing short-lived climate pollutants. In Asia Pacific, the Coalition supports capacity building and the development of National Action Plans on short-lived climate pollutants for close to 20 countries.

Regional Forum on Environment and Health

This biennial forum is a joint initiative of UN Environment and the World Health Organization to strengthen environmental health management in Southeast and East Asian countries. It aims to promote integrated environment health strategies and regulations by fostering cooperation between ministries of environment and health within and between countries.