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Global Perspectives on Catalyzing Action Against Air Pollution

Entry Author:
Kris Poduska, Ph.D.
Experimental Materials Physics and Chemistry

Memorial University of Newfoundland



Access to clean air is a human right. However, 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with poor air quality, and only half of the world’s governments produce air quality information. This means that 1.4 billion people do not have information about the air that they breathe. This plenary session brought together air quality advocates from South Africa, India, Mongolia, and Albania to share lessons learned about the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration and examples of how to utilize air quality data in actionable initiatives that fight air pollution.





  • Large-scale decision making can either alleviate or perpetuate structural challenges for people who are most vulnerable. Integrating data into the decision-making process is a persistent challenge.
  • There are disproportionate burdens of air pollution due to many intersecting factors including geography, industry, outdated energy infrastructure, and poor urban planning. Local context is critical to assess and understand in order to implement local action.
  • Open data in and of itself is not sufficient to fight air pollution.
  • The UN Human Rights Council recognized for the first time in 2021 that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right. This helps to frame air pollution not as an issue that needs to be tackled solely by scientists or policy makers but making the global governance system accountable for fighting air pollution on a global scale.
  • There is little integration between air pollution and climate change efforts. This needs to change in order to implement long term solutions.



  1. Air pollution is part of a broader systemic challenge. It is important to think of it not as a cause-and-effect issue, but rather as a systemic issue rooted in policies and regulations. The global governance system must be accountable for fighting air pollution on a global scale.
  2. It is essential to have accessible, current, local air pollution data in order to fight air pollution, but the data alone are not sufficient.


Key Words

  1. Air quality
  2. Air pollution
  3. Open data
  4. Human rights
  5. Health