Air pollution is at a point of urgency according to the International Energy Agency’s recent report claiming that over 6 million people a year die from lack of clean air. The causes and cures are believed to lie in the energy sector, which means it is time for international governments to start taking more responsibility for the damage they inflict on the environment and the population.

The main cause of air pollution is from fuel combustion, as only 8% of global energy production is combustion free. The energy industry regularly produces sulphur and nitrogen compounds – substances that are linked to breathing problems in vulnerable people, such as children and older members of society.

Worryingly, the report states that it is likely premature deaths from outdoor air pollution will rise from 3 million to 4.5 million by 2040, mainly in developing Asia.

Air pollution poses problems for developing cities, since work is being lost in these areas, and this costs the global economy billions a year. This may be a wake-up call for governments to view air pollution as a matter of urgency, and help private sectors tackle this ongoing issue.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, informs us why governments need to take more responsibility to strive for better air quality: “Air pollution does not get the attention it deserves. It is a global problem, and it is extremely important. It is a crisis.”

Their target is to cut emissions and deaths by 50% in the next three decades, which will be achieved by a 7% increase in investment. This has the potential to save up to 3 million lives.

Birol concludes the findings by explaining the importance of reducing air pollution and the benefits that would follow: “Implementing the IEA strategy in the Clean Air Scenario can push energy-related pollution levels into a steep decline in all countries. It can also deliver universal access to modern energy, a rapid peak and decline in global greenhouse-gas emissions and lower fossil-fuel import bills in many countries.”