Business leaders are tackling air pollution, for our health and the planet. Here’s How – The European Sting – Critical news and insights into European politics, economics, foreign affairs, business and technology

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This article was offered to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Shannon Engstrom, specialist, Center for Nature and Climate, Geneva World Economic Forum


  • 99% of people in the world breathe air above the safety limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • Air pollution emissions contribute to climate change. Taking action is beneficial to human and planetary health.
  • Launched at COP26, Eva Scherer and Andreas Ahrens are co-chairs of the Alliance for Clean Air, the first global corporate initiative to combat air pollution.

Air pollution damages our health, economies and the planet. As co-chairs of the Clean Air Alliance, the first global business initiative to bring together leading companies to combat air pollution, Andreas Ahrens, Head of Climate, Inter-IKEA Group And Eva Scherer, CFO, Railway infrastructure and mobility software, Siemensthey argue that companies have a responsibility to ensure that clean air is a human right for all.

Air pollution is a global problem

“When I learned that 99 percent of the world’s population breathes air that is harmful to their health, I realized I had to do something,” said Scherer.

“For us at Siemens, we see air pollution as a global health crisis and therefore it was a simple choice to join the Clean Air Alliance, because we firmly believe we have a responsibility to lead the transition to a climate-neutral environment and sustainable. economy. Siemens agrees with UNEP and the UN positions that access to a healthy environment is a human right. “

Ahrens said: “We know today that 2.4 billion are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution, leading to seven million premature deaths each year. Recent studies also show that even small levels of air pollution harm our health. We cannot take our eyes off this fact, we must act ”.

Despite the tragic rate of premature deaths from air pollution, Eva said she noted that it is rarely mentioned in traditional conversations and is underrepresented in public dialogue.

But Scherer and his team have a plan to address this lack of attention.

“Do you see commercials, billboards, listen to radio spots about how air pollution kills people? Probably not. This is why we are using the word “pollution” more and more in our messages and why we have joined the Clean Air Alliance “.

Air pollution and climate change

Air pollution and climate change are closely related. The extraction and combustion of fossil fuels leads to both climate change and air pollution.

Ahrens of Inter-Ikea Group said his company is taking responsibility for its contribution to air pollution.

He said: As a global retailer with a large value chain, we have a great responsibility to contribute to air pollution from the fuels we use, the procurement practices we need and the materials we choose for our products, and if possible recycle them or not. This also means that we are part of the solution and can take action to address it. “

And for Scherer and his company, a significant part of this move to reduce air pollution will inevitably involve technology.

“Renewable energy, smarter use of energy and electrification of transport are key technological pillars that have the potential to have the greatest impact on global emissions – and, consequently, better air quality – by end of this decade. And these are the key areas that our company offers for our customers, suppliers and for our operations. “

Tackling action on air pollution to accelerate climate action means prioritizing solutions that address both to maximize impact.

For example, IKEA is finding it can remove air pollution from high-density areas by switching to electric and other zero-emission vehicles for home delivery. With so many ways to reduce emissions, they find it helpful to use air pollution reduction as another driver so they can offer side benefits for human and planetary health.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to combat air pollution?

Over 50% of countries have established national ambient air quality standards, but we need to do more to protect citizens and our planet.

During COP26, the World Economic Forum and the Clean Air Fund launched the first global private sector initiative to combat air pollution.

The founding members of the Clean Air Alliance are committed to measuring and reducing their air pollution emissions, creating healthier communities around the world.

Members of the Clean Air Alliance:

  • Establish air pollution footprints on nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and particulate matter within 12 months
  • Identify where they are released to monitor human exposure
  • Set ambitious goals and objectives to reduce air pollution emissions, with a clear action plan
  • Act as an advocate for clean air by raising awareness among employees, customers and communities about the impact of air pollution. They will also help them reduce their exposure and support them to take action to reduce pollution
  • Use their resources in innovative ways to accelerate clean air solutions

Also at COP26, a practical guide for companies on how to measure air pollution across value chains was presented by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Stockholm Environment Institute, in collaboration with IKEA. The guide will help companies understand their impact on air quality and take the necessary actions to reduce their emissions.

If your business is committed to improving air quality, please contact us to express interest in working with us.

Fighting air pollution means taking leadership seriously

Both Scherer and Ahrens know that when it comes to fighting air pollution, leadership and international cooperation are key.

“If we can’t lead the way on how to measure air pollution, set ambitious targets to actively reduce it and support innovation in new technologies, who will? This also means that we have a great responsibility to act as champions to raise awareness of air pollution and how to tackle it, “said Scherer, adding:” With all we know, we need to act urgently and on a massive scale by encouraging others. to join forces to accelerate progress in air quality, climate and health “.

For the first time ever, through the Alliance for Clean Air, companies like Siemens and IKEA are working together to create air pollution baselines to determine impacts and set targets.

Alliance for Clean Air members are using the guide, developed by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Stockholm Environment Institute, in partnership with IKEA, to calculate air pollution emissions along their value chains.

The guide integrates with how companies are already calculating greenhouse gas emissions, making reporting as simple as possible and, in this way, playing a vital role in reducing emissions and cleaning the air for all.

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