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Air Pollution and the Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to end extreme poverty and create a healthy, sustainable world by the year 2030. At their heart lies the health and well-being of people and our planet, which means air pollution—the deaths and disabilities it causes and its close links to climate change—is a huge threat to delivering on the vision of a better world. However, the goals can also serve as a weapon against air pollution. Here’s how:

Goal 3 focuses on good health and well-being for all—a basic building block for people to achieve their potential in school, at work and at home. Every step we take to beating air pollution is a step towards achieving this goal.

Goal 7 targets access to clean and affordable energy—which is key to pulling people out of poverty and enabling sustainable economic development. Three billion people cook and heat their homes with dirty fuels. The resultant air pollution kills almost four million people each year, mainly women and children. Clean and renewable energy will save lives and boost economic development.

Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities is crucial in our urbanizing world. In 2016, more than half of urban dwellers were exposed to outdoor air pollution levels at least 2.5 times above World Health Organization safe levels. Policies that make cities smart, resilient and green—through urban planning, technology and citizen participation—can provide better air quality and transform the urban landscape.

Goal 13 tackles climate change. Many of the air pollutants that affect our health also warm the atmosphere. Actions to improve air quality—such as switching to cleaner energy, cooking and transport solutions—will also address the climate emergency.

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