The Paris-based International Energy Agency conducted its first study regarding air pollution last year and discovered a strong link between air pollution and about 6.5 million deaths around the globe each year.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the agency, has expanded the agency’s mission in the face of growing concerns regarding climate change and the introduction of nations such as India and China as major contributors to energy consumption and pollution.
“To stay relevant,” Birol said during an interview, we “need to work much closer with new emerging energy economies.”
China, being one of the biggest countries in the world in terms of population, is of particular concern when it comes to reducing emissions to help combat climate change and the rise of air pollution.
Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, describes how important China is to fixing the world’s energy concerns:
“To solve today’s biggest energy problems, the I.E.A. needs to have the world’s most important energy players as part of it.”
If you have ever been to China’s big cities or even seen pictures of them, you have some idea of just how bad it truly is, as people can be seen wearing masks and protective gear on their faces to help filter out the amount of air pollution they experience on a regular basis.
Birol’s goal is to coordinate global energy-related efforts, starting with new economies such as the ones in China and India. By starting with these countries, Birol hopes to make progress on the global scale, saying that the first step is helping them realize “that their problems are our problems.”
The Paris Agreement was a huge step forward in global unity to fight air pollution and the effects of climate change, and Birol believes that further major steps forward can be achieved by implementing low-cost practices, such as adopting clean air standards and policies that both monitor and strictly enforce those standards.
For example, many believe China needs to completely get rid of coal-fired power plants and place stricter regulations on the emissions of motor vehicles.
Currently, about 60 percent the population of India is exposed to fine particle air pollution, a number that could be reduced to 20 percent by 2040 if such energy changes were made. Likewise, 50 percent of China’s population is currently exposed to the same type of pollution, a number that could be reduced to below 25 percent.