Nairobi gets slice of Sh4.5bn to improve air quality


A woman walks through a dumpsite in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The funding, announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Clean Air Fund, and C40 Cities, aims to reduce air pollution, slash carbon emissions, and enhance public health.
  • This is through an evidence-based strategy that combines data, policy, and community engagement.

Nairobi is among cities in Africa that will benefit from a $30 million (Sh4.5 billion) initiative to improve its air quality data.

This funding is significant for the health of the about six million people who live or work in the city, and how, according to the World Health Organization, breathe air that has a huge concentration of fine particulate matter, defined as PM2.5.

The financial support is supposed to enhance air quality data, community engagement, and capacity building in the Kenya capital, which will also benefit from technical engagement as part of the Breathe Cities clean air initiative that was announced during the COP28 Local Climate Action Summit.

Other cities in Africa that will benefit from the funding are Accra in Ghana and Johannesburg in South Africa.

The funding, announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Clean Air Fund, and C40 Cities, aims to reduce air pollution, slash carbon emissions, and enhance public health.   

Through an evidence-based strategy that combines data, policy, and community engagement, Breathe Cities has the ambitious goal of contributing to reducing air pollution by 30 per cent on average across participating cities by 2030 compared to the 2019 levels.

Such reduction would prevent an estimated 39,000 premature deaths and around 79,000 new cases of asthma in children each decade, saving $107 billion in avoided hospitalisations and deaths.

Various reports estimate that about 7.5 per cent of the Kenyan population, or nearly four million people, have asthma, with the Economic survey 2022 showing that 20,613,455 cases of respiratory diseases had been reported in Kenya as at December 2021.

Air pollution is one of the most urgent global issues and almost no urban area has air quality that meets the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

About 40 per cent of cities have air pollution over seven times higher than WHO’s recommendation, meaning their residents are breathing dangerously polluted air that can cause a suite of health issues such as asthma and respiratory illnesses. Also, air pollution is also associated with seven million premature deaths each year.

By 2030, a total of 284 cubic megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions would be avoided among participating cities – a monumental win for both people and the planet.

“Toxic air pollution is a dual threat, impacting both the public health of our cities as well as furthering the climate crisis,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London and co-chair of C40 Cities.

“I’ve seen how collaboration can accelerate progress on the challenges we face. By partnering with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Clean Air Fund, we will be able to provide cities with the data and capacity they need to push for stronger and more effective policies that reduce air pollution and deliver cleaner, healthier air to their residents.”

Michael R Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said “one of the most effective ways to tackle climate change and protect public health is through reducing air pollution”.

“With the right technology, data, and policy, cities can lead the way in cleaning the air,” he added. “Bloomberg Philanthropies is looking forward to working with these cities to help them implement ambitious solutions that will help improve and save lives.”

The cities announced will join together in a first-of-its-kind partnership to exchange knowledge and scale local impact. They were selected for their commitment to advancing ambitious policies addressing the dual challenges of air pollution and climate emissions.

The participating local governments were also chosen based on criteria such as geographic diversity, air pollution, and emissions intensity, engaged civil society, strong political interest and leadership, scalability potential, and capacity to implement action plans, among other metrics.

This story was produced with support from MESHA and IDRC Eastern and Southern Africa office.