Jakarta, Indonesia – Air pollution from burning fossil fuels – primarily coal, oil, and gas – is attributed to an estimated 4.5 million deaths each year worldwide and estimated economic losses of US$2.9 trillion, or approximately 3.3% of global GDP, new research from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shows. The report is the first of its kind to assess the global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels.

“Air pollution is a threat to our health and our economies. Every year, air pollution from fossil fuels takes millions of lives, increases our risk of stroke, lung cancer and asthma, and costs us trillions of dollars.

But this is a problem that we know how to solve by transitioning to renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel and petrol cars, and building public transport. We need to take into account the real cost of fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet, but also for our health,” said Minwoo Son, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

Key findings:
– An estimated 40,000 children die before their fifth birthday because of exposure to PM2.5 pollution from fossil fuels, primarily in low-income countries.
– NO2, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion in vehicles, power plants and factories, is linked to roughly 4 million new cases of asthma in children each year, with approximately 16 million children worldwide living with asthma due to exposure to NO2 pollution from fossil fuels.
– PM2.5 air pollution from fossil fuels is attributed to roughly 1.8 billion days of work absence due to illness each year worldwide, equating to approximate annual economic losses of US$101 billion.
– China Mainland, the United States and India bear the highest costs from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide, at an estimated US$900 billion, US$600 billion and US$150 billion per year, respectively.  

Phasing out fossil fuels brings financial and health benefits. According to a study published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, every US$1 invested under the United States Clean Air Act yielded at least US$30 in return.[1] Likewise, a weekly car-free day in Bogota, Colombia yielded US$3.20 to US$4.30 in health benefits for every US$1 invested in the program, according to a study published in the Journal of Urban Health.[2]

“Governments must halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants and retire existing plants, invest in public transport systems, and transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible. Around the world people are demanding clean air, and governments must take action,” said Bondan Andriyanu, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia.



Media briefing available here

Full report available here

[1] United States Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Air and Radiation. The benefits and costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020 [Accessed January 9, 2020]

[2] Montes, F. et al. Do Health Benefits Outweigh the Costs of Mass Recreational Programs? An Economic Analysis of Four Ciclovía Programs. J. Urban Health 89, 153–170 (2012).


Erin Newport, International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia: [email protected]

Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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Air Pollution Action at Eskom's Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace
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