Landmark Initiative to Integrate Public Health, Air Quality into Urban Climate Efforts Worldwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 4, 2019) – Researchers at the George Washington University are launching a first-of-its-kind, two-component project to develop tools that will help cities worldwide decide what strategies are best to improve air quality and public health. The three-year effort is supported by a total of $1.2 million in grants from the Wellcome Trust and Clean Air Fund.

Led by Susan Anenberg, PhD, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health, the researchers will develop and test an air quality model that estimates health impacts from fine particular matter. This model will then be integrated into a toolkit called Pathways, developed by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which cities are already using to plan climate action strategies. With local partners, Anenberg and her team will test the tool with regard to air quality and health benefits associated with climate actions taken in these pilot cities.

The researchers will also assess how they can quantify additional health benefits using the tool, such as changes in ozone, nitrogen dioxide levels, physical activity, noise levels, or improved green space in the cities.

“Air pollution is among the top 10 risk factors that affect public health in nearly all countries worldwide, and may be even more harmful to public health in cities,” Anenberg said. “Our project advances the science and integration with policy decision-making that is needed to realize public health benefits from both climate mitigation and air quality improvements.”

At the end of the three years, the research team hopes to better understand the health benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation policies, which may spur greater climate action from policymakers in cities worldwide.

The landmark initiative is comprised of two components: The first, titled “Integrating Air Quality and Public Health into C40 Climate Action Planning,” is supported by a grant from the Clean Air Fund provided to GW through a contract by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. The second, titled “Methods and tools to integrate air quality and health into urban climate action planning,” is supported by a from the Wellcome Trust. The research team includes C40 Cities, Boston University, University of Colorado – Boulder, EnviroMind LLC, and Orbis Air.

“This is the first large scale effort to incorporate air quality improvements and public health benefits into urban climate action planning around the world,” Anenberg said. “We are building a bridge between the scientific evidence on health benefits to the largest urban climate action planning initiative to date. We hope the knowledge gleaned from this project will be translated into solutions that can be used to clean the air, mitigate global warming and keep people and our planet healthier.”