Clean Air Catalyst

A global partnership accelerating clean air solutions

Clean Air Catalyst is a flagship program by USAID, WRI and EDF. Photo: Saurav Purkayastha/Dreamstime

Air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk, resulting in an estimated 6.7 million premature deaths each year. The death toll from air pollution is greater than that of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. Air pollution causes and exacerbates heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. It damages ecosystems, causes climate change, reduces agricultural productivity and alters the water cycle. Globally the air pollution crisis is expected to deepen, particularly in rapidly urbanizing low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Under “business as usual,” the estimated number of deaths from air pollution could increase by more than 50% by 2050.

Action to improve – and maintain – clean air has lagged far behind the mounting evidence of harm. Clean Air Catalyst, a new flagship program launched by The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and a global consortium of organizations led by World Resources Institute (WRI) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), seeks to change this.

Clean Air Catalyst offers a globally applicable approach to developing locally tailored, self-reliant solutions that cut air pollution and improve human health in cities in LMICs. Our partnership brings together diverse local stakeholders to address critical information gaps, to build confidence and trust in air pollution information, and to advance and institutionalize lasting solutions.

We will work in two initial pilot cities: Indore, India, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Program Strategy

Clean Air Catalyst will use a novel program strategy combining 4 key innovations to address air pollution:

  • Source Awareness: We combine participatory science, structured media engagement and assessment of public perceptions to build a shared understanding of the pollution sources that affect communities in each city.
  • Sabotage of Harms (Root Cause Analysis): We broaden our search for clean air solutions beyond the “end of the tailpipe/top of the smokestack” regulatory actions by identifying 3-5 activities that drive emissions in the most polluting sector(s) in each pilot region.
  • Focused Coalition Building: We will select one high-impact intervention from the sabotage of harms assessment and build a coalition of public- and private-sector partners to reduce emissions from a key pollution source, including formation of new sustainable funding vehicles and governance mechanisms for coordination.
  • Cross-Sectoral Global Consortium: Our unique coalition of leading air quality, environment, public health, energy, governance, and communication experts will work to break down sectoral silos to deliver credible and comprehensive solutions.

While the critical sectors and interventions will vary across program sites, we anticipate drawing on the partnership’s expertise in advancing clean energy access, developing alternatives to burning crops, wood and solid waste, shifting freight and passenger traffic to lower-emitting options and cleaner vehicles.

Through these pilots, the project will not only generate new, societally relevant scientific findings, but will also create a practical, field-tested playbook for convening collaboration among key stakeholders, identifying and building awareness of air quality priorities, and leveraging USAID missions’ strengths to deliver and sustain cleaner air. All outputs will be open source and we encourage other groups to use the data, join the partnership, or otherwise help build a global groundswell of effective and collaborative clean air action.


Clean Air Catalyst is a growing cooperative led by The U.S. Agency for International Development, World Resources Institute, and Environmental Defense Fund:

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