Air pollution is a global health and environmental crisis, causing more deaths a year globally than HIV/AIDs and malaria, combined. Meanwhile, reducing certain types of air pollution can be one of the strongest levers available for slowing near-term global warming.

Air pollution impedes progress on 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by:

  • Harming human health: Air pollution is now one of the most significant causes of premature death and disability worldwide, responsible for an estimated 6.7 million deaths in 2019, including nearly 500,000 newborn children. Eighty percent of deaths due to air pollution occur in cities in low and middle income countries, often disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations.
  • Causing Climate Change: The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C states that the only possible scenario for limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires reducing emissions of both carbon-dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon (a component of particulate matter air pollution) and ozone. 
  • Threatening food security, water, and economic growth: Air pollution damages ecosystems, reduces agricultural productivity, and alters the water cycle. Globally, air pollution causes $5.11 trillion USD in global welfare losses each year (approximately 5% of global GDP).

USAID’s approach to addressing air pollution

Air pollution is a global problem that must be tackled with local and regional solutions enacted by multiple and diverse stakeholders. USAID is one of the largest donors in the air quality landscape, supporting several initiatives addressing air quality in regions across the world, as well as global initiatives that provide common knowledge infrastructure and resources to communities fighting air pollution. 

USAID’s air quality programming aims to mitigate and reduce ambient and household air pollution to reduce adverse health impacts, advance climate change mitigation and adaptation, and promote inclusive, sustainable development.

Graphic showing four USAID air quality goals: 1. Reduce Ambient and Household Air Pollution; 2. Avoid Adverse Health Impacts; 3. Advance Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation; and 4. Promote Inclusive, Equitable Development.

Relevant USAID Programming


Image: View of Nairobi, Kenya from atop a tall building. Mountains can be seen in the distance.

Clean Air Catalyst

India, Indonesia, Kenya

Clean Air Catalyst is a global partnership launched in 2020 by USAID to find lasting solutions to air and climate pollution that also contribute to addressing its inequitable effects in the most polluted urban regions around the world.

Image of a girl looking out of a window that is placed in a sky blue wall, overlaid with text stating the project name.

Cleaner Air and Better Health


The Cleaner Air and Better Health (CABH) project is working to strengthen air pollution mitigation and reduce exposure in India by establishing evidence-based models for better air quality management.

The ancient settlement of Kathmandu as viewed from Swayambhunath Hill.

USAID Clean Air (Swachchha Hawa)


USAID Clean Air uses a multi-sectoral approach to reduce air pollution in Kathmandu Valley by engaging the government, civil society, private sector, and citizens.

A group of women demonstrates the use of LPG cookstoves to a large group of onlookers.

Alternatives to Charcoal


The Alternatives to Charcoal (A2C) project works to reduce deforestation related to the production of charcoal. USAID A2C takes a market-driven approach to this challenge by catalyzing a shift in urban household cooking away from charcoal towards private sector-led, low-emissions technologies and fuels.

A blur of people on motorbikes on a Vietnam street moves from lower left to upper right in the frame.

Reducing Pollution Activity


The Reducing Pollution Activity aims to address Vietnam’s environmental pollution challenges through support to local actors with a focus on plastic waste, wastewater from urban households and craft villages, and air pollution.

A family poses outside of a house and near a cookstove, smiling at the camera.

Modern Cooking for Healthy Forests


The MCHF activity is designed to promote sustainable forest management in Malawi in select landscapes, support sustainable cooking energy options in select urban demand centers, maintain forest cover, and to reduce land-based emissions.

A woman smiles and poses for the camera while using a LPG-powered cookstove.

Scaling Clean Cooking – BURN Manufacturing West Africa Expansion

Ghana, Nigeria

BURN Manufacturing is one of the most successful manufacturers of high-efficiency cookstoves, having already manufactured and sold over two million stoves in East Africa.

For more information about USAID’s work on air pollution, contact: