The 2020 World Air Quality Report has found that, despite Covid shutdowns briefly improving air quality, deadly pollution in several nations exceeded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.
The report laid out how the Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns had had a positive environmental impact, improving air quality as people stayed at home, but not enough to reduce pollution in many countries to a safe levels set out by WHO guidance.
The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, which co-authored the report, found that only 24 of the 106 countries that are monitored met the target of safe air quality, with some areas still enduring pollution at six to eight times higher than the recommended threshold.
Even though India had a 15% decrease, South Asia remained the most polluted region in the world, while, despite China seeing the concentration of pollution there fall by 11%, the country was still 2.5 times higher than the required target.
Part of the failure to get air quality to a globally safe level was due to wildfires in areas such as Australia, California and South America, which spread dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere.
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The WHO has called for action on air pollution, as studies have shown that it can reduce the average lifespan by three years and causes around eight million premature deaths per year.
Lauri Myllyvirta, one of the lead analysts behind the research, called on governments to use the environmental impact of lockdown as an opportunity to transition to clean energy and clean transport, working to find a “sustained way” to build on the improvements that occurred in 2020.
“Speeding up the transition to clean energy and clean transport not only saves lives, but also dramatically reduces healthcare-related costs,” Greenpeace India’s Avinash Chanchal said.
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