Taking stock of global efforts

Recognizing the growing global threat of air pollution, in 2014 the UN Environment Assembly asked UN Environment to publish an overview of the actions taken by governments to promote better air quality.

The results of that survey have been shared in 14 sub-regional reports as well as a global summary, titled Actions on Air Quality.

The report found that many governments have yet to act on air quality, but it also highlights examples of positive action from around the world:

  • More than 3 billion people still use solid fuels and inefficient cookstoves, but the Seychelles was able to improve household air quality by transitioning the whole country from solid fuels and inefficient cookstoves to liquefied petroleum gas.
  • Only a quarter of countries have advanced fuels and vehicles standards, which can significantly reduce small particulate matter pollution, especially in cities. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, decided that from 1 January 2015 only low-sulphur fuels would be allowed in their countries. If met by similar vehicles standards this would reduce vehicle emissions by over 90 per cent.
  • Some countries and cities have been able to increase waste recycling, reducing the need to burn waste. In Brazil, for example, millions of hectares of land are under conservation agriculture, which leaves crop residue from previous harvests on the land rather than burning it.
  • The majority of countries around the world have now put in place national air quality standards. India, with major air quality challenges in many cities, has established air quality laws and regulation and also an implementation strategy for these laws.