Governments, agencies and development banks have spent more aid money on clean air than fossil fuels for the first time on record, a report has found.
However, such projects still receive less than 1% of international development funding, according to the Clean Air Fund, an environmental charity.
Toxic particles in the air are the fourth-biggest killer globally, but campaigners say efforts to get rid of them have been “chronically” starved of cash. Only blood pressure, smoking and diet play a bigger role in whether people die too early.
Jane Burston, the executive director of the Clean Air Fund, said cleaning the air saves lives, grows economies and slows the climate crisis, adding: “It’s the single thing that has the biggest bang for your buck if you fund it.”
The report found that international aid for fossil fuels peaked in 2019 and has fallen fast but still lingers. In 2021, about $1.5bn (£1.2bn) was spent on fossil fuel projects like building coal plants or gas pipelines, down from $11.9bn two years earlier. The amount spent on tackling outdoor air pollution has risen to $2.3bn.
Despite this shift, spending targeted at clean air made up just 1% of international development funding and 2% of international public climate finance between 2015 and 2021, the report found.