Global air pollution

The Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program takes a unique systems perspective that integrates physical, social, economic, and policy aspects of air quality management. In 2015, the program introduced these aspects into numerous new policy and scientific initiatives that address the role of air quality management for improving human wellbeing and contribute to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals.

© Shaowen1994 | Dreamstime

© Shaowen1994 | Dreamstime

In 2012, the seminal study on the Global Burden of Disease, to which MAG contributed, drew worldwide attention to air pollution as the most important environmental factor for impaired health and premature mortality [1]. Effective air quality management can have numerous beneficial effects for sustainability, not least by reaping near-term and local co-benefits from greenhouse gas mitigation strategies. Because the most visible impacts of pollution occur at local scales and in the near-term, they have not traditionally been the focus of global, long-term scenario studies. The rather stylized and highly aggregated treatment of pollution control in such models did not reveal the multiple benefits from dedicated policy interventions, which are now seen as an important leverage to motivate action for long-term, transformative change.

To improve the representation of these aspects in global, long-term studies MAG fostered numerous research collaborations in this field and contributed high-resolution databases on aerosol emissions, mitigation technologies, and health impacts. This will improve air pollution estimates in initiatives such as the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, the Energy Modelling Forum project EMF30, the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook study, and the EU project Low climate Impact scenarios and the Implications of required Tight emission control Strategies (FP7 LIMITS). With this work, MAG has highlighted the pivotal role of effective governance of air pollution control strategies in long-term transformational pathways.

In parallel, MAG has established itself as an important partner in a number of global policy initiatives on pollution management, including the Global Forum on Air Quality and Health recently established by the World Health Organization, the Pollution Management and Environmental Health program of the World Bank, and the new Asian-Pacific Clean Air Partnership coordinated by the UN Environment Program.


[1] Lim SS, Vos T, Flaxman AD & Amann M (2012). A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet, 380 (9859): 2224-2260. 


IIASA’s Energy, Ecosystems Services and Management, World Population programs

Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

International Energy Agency

Stanford University, USA

Pacific North-West National Laboratory, USA

World Health Organization

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Last edited: 01 March 2016


Zbigniew Klimont

Research Group Leader and Principal Research Scholar Pollution Management Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

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