Jakarta, Indonesia – Air pollution is linked to the loss of an estimated 24,000 lives in Delhi, India in the first half of 2020 despite a strict COVID-related lockdown, according to a new tool that uses live air quality data to track the cost of air pollution in real time. The counter, developed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and IQAir AirVisual, reveals the impact of air pollution in 28 cities around the world since 1 January, 2020. [1]

See the cost of air pollution in your city here.

“As governments look to rebuild their economies, it is more important than ever that investments are directed toward green and sustainable industry. Rather than providing a last lifeline to the fossil fuel industry, we must invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which are much more economically viable in the long term. Now is the time for a rapid shift away from polluting fossil fuels, for our health and for society,” said Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner at Greenpeace India.

Of all 28 cities studied, Delhi saw the highest per capita mortality rate due to air pollution over the past 12 months. The counter reveals that air pollution took a major toll on the city’s economy, at a cost of approximately US$3.5 billion over the last sixth months, or the equivalent of 5.8% of the city’s GDP. 

There is strong evidence that long-term air pollution exposure increases the risk of severe COVID-19 infections and death. [2] Chronic air pollution exposure is associated with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease. Patients with these conditions are at a greater risk of hospitalization with COVID-19. [3]

Some cities, including Manila, Beijing and many cities in Europe, saw a temporary improvement in air quality due to reduced human activity during quarantine restrictions. However, as a result of continued reliance on fossil fuels, these gains reversed as lockdowns eased. In other cities, including Jakarta, overall air quality did not improve year-on-year during the lockdown period, highlighting the urgent need for a more fundamental shift toward renewable energy and clean transport for long-term air quality improvement.

As governments look to issue bailouts and stimulate the economy during COVID, Greenpeace urges that they invest in renewable energy and clean transport.

“When it comes to air pollution, we can’t afford a return to normal. The devastating health impact from burning fossil fuels should be a wake-up call for leaders around the world. Governments must ensure that bailouts and economic COVID-19 recovery packages are directed to sustainable industry and clean-energy powered public transport, not to polluting coal and oil,” said Greenpeace East Asia global air pollution campaigner Minwoo Son. 



[1] The Greenpeace Southeast Asia/IQAir AirVisual counter applies an algorithm to ground-level air quality data to calculate the projected cost of air pollution from PM2.5 and NO2 in cities around the world since 1 January, 2020. The counter uses real-time air quality data from IQAir AirVisual’s database, combined with scientific risk models, as well as population and health data. Mortality and cost estimates are based on the total impact attributable to PM2.5 and NO2 over the preceding 365 days, apportioned day by day according to daily recorded pollutant levels. Inclusion of NO2 is dependent on data availability.

The counter builds on methodology from the Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) report “Toxic Air: The Price of Fossil Fuels”, which compiled the latest scientific results on exposure-response relationships between air pollution and health outcomes, as well as the economic costs of health conditions that were linked to air pollution in scientific literature.

The methodology used for the counter was developed by CREA. More details are available here.

[2]  Wu 2020.

[3] Garg et al 2020, Yang et al 2020.


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

Tiffany Allegretti, Public Relations Manager, IQAir North America, Inc., +1 562-903-7600 x1129, [email protected]

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