Impact of Air Pollution on the Global Economy

Major health problems brought on by contaminated air harm our economy. Reduced labor productivity, work absenteeism, untimely fatalities, and lower crop yields are all ways that air pollution can impact businesses. The expense of cleaning our air will increase as we delay it longer.

Air pollution and economic development

The price of premature mortality and disability due to air pollution in Europe was estimated by the WHO and OECD to be up to USD 1.6 trillion in 2015. Air pollution harms the economy in several ways: it costs lives; impairs people’s capacity to work; affects essential goods like food; destroys cultural and historical landmarks; and increases the cost of ecosystem repair and restoration.

The development of new technologies that help reduce emissions is ongoing. Setting air pollution emission limit values, as done under the protocol Stack of the Convention, has been shown to be a successful instrument for encouraging investment in environmentally friendly technologies. In many instances, the advantages of better technology for reducing air pollution have indeed been quantified. Economic models predict that implementing extra measures will result in job losses in some areas (such as the fossil fuel sector) but job gains in others (e.g., the building or equipment sectors). Long-term environmental policy will benefit the economy because it will encourage more resource-efficient use and the health advantages will boost GDP by up to 10%. The cost of manufacturing the necessary equipment and, consequently, the abatement measures will decrease as the clean technology market expands. The opportunities for a developing clean technology economy are increased in the nations that act first. Reducing emissions is a prudent long-term investment that advances various development objectives and will ultimately bring significant gains.

Reducing air pollution and strengthening economies

A stronger economy depends on improving the quality of air we breathe. According to a Council of British Industry (CBI) report, if the UK followed the World Health Organization’s guidelines for reducing historical air quality data, it might save 17,000 premature deaths yearly and gain £1.6 billion. In addition, the National Health System will save money on social and health care (NHS).

In India, air pollution-related lost productivity, missed workdays, and early deaths cost the economy $95 billion in 2019 (about 3% of the nation’s GDP). There is no doubt that improving public health and combating air pollution are excellent for our economies. Cutting emissions is a prudent long-term investment that advances various development objectives and will ultimately bring significant gains.

The global economic cost of air pollution

A new analysis on the human and financial impacts of air pollution from fossil fuels was just released by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Studies on Energy and Clean Air. Globally, burning gas, coal, and oil kills three times as many people as automobile accidents, and air pollution is estimated to cost the global economy $2.9 trillion, or 3.3 percent of GDP. According to the analysis, PM2.5 was associated with 4.5 million fatalities in 2018. [5] Pollution is also to blame for 2 million premature births, 4 million additional cases of childhood asthma, and 1.8 billion days missed at work.

It can affect the economy in various ways, such as greater rates of chronic respiratory disorders like asthma, diabetes, or diabetes that limit people’s capacity to work and lower labor force participation rates. Children prone to asthma episodes miss school, which affects their academic progress, and their parents may need to take more time off work due to medical obligations. Information from data providers where researchers get weather APIs and air quality data, have backed the instances of children missing school on multiple occasions where pollution rates have been high. According to the paper, preterm births and sick leave cost the global economy $100 billion each in 2018, while chronic disease disability costs $200 billion. 

According to estimates, air pollution costs the Chinese economy $900 billion a year, while the United States pays $600 billion. Indian cities have consistently fared poorly on air pollution indices as depicted by air pollution data. It has cost the nation $150 billion annually on average. In 2018, the overall cost of the poor air quality index measure was equivalent to 6.6% of China’s GDP, 5.4% of India’s GDP, and 3% of the United States’ GDP.


The Convention establishes emission threshold levels for air pollutants, and they are a successful tool for encouraging investment in clean technology, notably in the energy sector. As a result, the Convention will also support sustainable industrialization. In practice, the Convention’s Task Force on Techno-Economic Problems creates a techno-economic collection of data on control systems for reducing air pollution and their costs. The information and the input data for integrated assessment modeling may be used to create draught amendments of technical annexes to current Protocols to the Convention. The air pollution data helps nations find air pollution-reducing technology, including those for businesses and the energy sector. Thus, the Convention aids nations in reaching their goals for Sustainable Development Goals 9 on industry, innovation, and infrastructure, as well as Goal 7 on access to affordable, clean energy.

The International Union Programmed on Air Pollution’s Effects on Materials, such as Historic as well as Cultural Monuments, carries out quantitative analyses of the impact of significant pollutants on the atmospheric corrosion of significant materials and evaluates the trends and costs of pollution and corrosion. The data will help nations conserve their cultural legacy, one of the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 11, which focuses on creating sustainable communities and cities.

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