As the lives lost to COVID-19 edge closer to 5 million globally, policymakers have demonstrated sharply growing interest in how protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and addressing other planetary crises can improve public health. One planetary crisis that benefited temporarily from COVID-19 lockdowns but requires more sustainable solutions is air pollution. According to 2019 data, air pollution accounted for about 6.75 million premature deaths. While all regions need to step up efforts to reduce this figure, Asia and the Pacific – a region where about 90 percent of its population, or 4 billion people, are exposed to levels of air pollution posing a significant health risk – has the most to gain from concerted efforts to clean the air.
Kaoru Akahoshi and Eric Zusman