Air pollution contributes to about 6.5 million deaths each year, the International Energy Agency warned in a report released Monday, with casualties expected to drastically rise in coming decades unless the energy industry curbs emissions.
The agency’s first air pollution study found that premature deaths connected to outdoor air pollution are projected to rise from 3 million in 2016 to 4.5 million by 2040, with the highest concentration in developing Asia. It also suggested that governments and the energy sector could reduce the number of deaths linked to air pollution by implementing clean air policies.
“Clean air is a basic human right that most of the world’s population lacks,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “No country—rich or poor—can claim that the task of tackling air pollution is complete. But governments are far from powerless to act and need to act now.”
“We need to revise our approach to energy development so that communities are not forced to sacrifice clean air in return for economic growth,” Birol added.