When most of us go for a stroll outside or hop on the bus for our daily commute into the office with the window rolled down, we rarely think about the air we are breathing in.
Air pollution is currently the biggest environmental risk for early death and is responsible for as many as 5 million premature deaths each year from strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Air pollution does not just contribute to climate change but it is also exacerbated by it.
While tackling air pollution sounds like a major challenge, there are actions we can take to decrease the risks to human health and the environment.
To name some every day tips for individuals, you can try to conserve energy at home and at work by looking at the energy star label when purchasing office and home equipment.
Additionally, you can use public transport, carpool, cycle or walk where possible, keep your tires properly inflated, use environmentally friendly cleaning products and paints and consider opting for gas logs as opposed to using wood.
Businesses can take action too in numerous ways. They can add air quality to their corporate social responsibility activities and reporting, quantify air pollution down the supply chain or manufacturing processes and collect the data that is required to develop emissions inventories for key major pollutants related to the companies’ own activities.
In addition, they can establish programmes which reduce air pollution from its own operations and also from its suppliers and promote awareness campaigns to transparently communicate the levels of emission caused by its operations and explain what will be done to reduce those emissions.
Now that you know what you can do as an individual to reduce air pollution and what actions businesses can take to make small differences that add up, let’s discuss what governments can do. In order to reduce air pollution, governments can use four main policies – regulations to ban certain pollutants, pollution permits, tax to raise the price and subsidise alternatives.
A carbon tax is a levy applied to fossil fuels based on how much carbon dioxide they release when burned. Essentially, carbon tax makes people pay for the social cost of pollution. In relation to subsidy, this refers to the subsidy of alternative energy sources. Pollution permits refer to carbon trading schemes where firms are given the right to pollute a specific amount; these permits can be traded with other firms.
Regulation is necessary to limit the level of pollution that can be pumped into the atmosphere.