Poor air quality: good energy policies can help save lives

10 March 2016

Participants at the World Energy Outlook 2016 Energy and Air Quality workshop in Paris.

One hundred experts from governments, corporations, academia and civil groups around the globe gathered at the International Energy Agency (IEA) on 10 March to advise on energy policies and new technologies that could help reduce air pollution that each year causes millions of premature deaths and costs the global economy trillions of dollars.

The IEA organised the Energy and Air Quality workshop in Paris to generate input for a Special Report of the 2016 edition of the Agency flagship publication World Energy Outlook (WEO). To be released in June, the Special Report will identify actions to reduce the major role that the energy sector currently has in causing dangerous air pollution.

“Air pollution leads to 7 million premature deaths each year, and much of it can be traced back to the energy sector,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol as he welcomed the participants to the Agency’s headquarters in Paris. “There is an urgent need to improve the air we breathe, which is why the IEA is to use its flagship World Energy Outlook series to publish its first-ever report on energy and air quality in June.”

Kamel Ben Naceur, IEA Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, set out the ambitious work plan for the WEO Special Report, with attendees subsequently presenting on and debating the various sources of energy-related air pollution around the world; the interplay of development and energy for Asian air quality; and the state of policy and technology solutions for energy subsectors. Participants helped the IEA’s WEO team identify policies that can materially improve the outlook for energy-related air pollution, balancing benefits and trade-offs with other energy sector objectives. Finally, the IEA worked with the experts to distil the recommendations and other key messages for policy makers and other readers of the Special Report.

The invitation-only workshop was held under the Chatham House Rule, which bars identifying speakers or their organisations.