African Cities Air Quality Pilot Project

Urban air pollution has increased by approximately 8% between 2008 and 2013: 80% of people in cities breathe air above WHO guidelines. At the same time, though over half the world population lives in urban areas, only 12% cities reporting air quality data meet WHO air pollution standards. Air pollution is a large and growing problem, one that affects almost all countries. Urgent, effective policies at national and city level are therefore needed to address the issue.

Many countries and cities, in developing and emerging economies in particular, need substantial efforts in establishing and strengthening the evidence base for policy making and policy implementation related to ambient air quality. This includes, but is not limited to: regular and consistent air quality monitoring, strong policies cutting across different sectors, solid enabling environment and awareness-raising and communication.

UN Environment is partnering with the Environmental and Compliance Institute (ECI) to implement a demonstration project to support three African cities, namely: Addis Ababa, Kigali and Nairobi, to develop air quality strategies. The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Generate knowledge on air quality and keep the air quality situation under review in the selected cities,
  2. Jointly develop tools and methodologies to better address air quality issues according to the unique situation of the selected cities and air pollution apportionment,
  3. Provide policy advise on air quality management, e.g. sectoral solutions bringing air quality co-benefits (on transport, waste, health, chemical management), enforcement and/or compliance of policy framework, and
  4. Raise awareness through mobilization of key stakeholders and development of air quality campaigns.

The project will build the capacity of relevant national officials (EPA and city authorities) in the three selected cities (Addis Ababa, Kigali and Nairobi) to develop, implement and enforce policy and regulatory frameworks for air quality management; and support the development of strategies for Air Quality Management in these three cities.

UN Environment is working with ECI due to the latter’s long standing technical experience in the Africa region since 2013. UN Environment has in the past 4 years partnered with ECI to implement various air quality interventions in East Africa including: piloting the Regulatory Toolkit for  Clean Fuels and Vehicles;  developing a roadmap for vehicles I/M Program for Kenya; and developing roadmap for harmonization of vehicle emission standards for East Africa. More recently, ECI developed a programme on Climate & Clean Air aiming at supporting climate change and clean air interventions in Africa by:

  • Raising awareness of climate change and its impacts on the environment, peoples and livelihoods.
  • Promoting the adoption and implementation of policies, legislation and practices that improve air quality, reduce energy use and limit greenhouse gas emissions, including short-lived climate pollutants (SCLPs).

The selected cities were based on a demand-driven approach.  Addis Ababa, Kigali and Nairobi are among the fastest growing cities in Sub-Saharan Africa with record population growths, increased industrial activity, explosion in motor vehicle ownership and higher waste generation.  The growth in these cities has also been characterized with deteriorating air quality, with recent air pollution studies showing that the mean values for air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and gaseous pollutants such as ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) are well above WHO guidelines. Consolidating the knowledge base on air quality issues in these cities is therefore necessary in order to provide evidence-based strategies (policy, legislative and regulatory options) aimed at addressing the growing problem of air pollution. It is expected that the lessons drawn from the pilot in these three cities will provide a sound foundation for replication in other African cities as well as other regions with developing economies and economies in transition.   The Project will kick off in November 2017 and will run for one year through 2018.