How To Reduce Air Pollution: Solutions, & Examples Of Successful Cities

There are steps and solutions cities can take to reduce air pollution.

Some cities have already done it and have results to show for it.

In this short guide, we outline solutions for air pollution, and give a few examples of cities that have reduced their air pollution levels.


Summary – How To Reduce To Outdoor Air Pollution, & Cities That Have Already Reduced Air Pollution

Two of the major sources of outdoor air pollution worldwide are transport, and electricity generation

Cleaner energy that doesn’t use fossil fuels – both for vehicles (electric vehicles as one examples), and electricity generation (solar, wind, renewables and other forms of cleaner energy for example) – is one major solution to decrease pollutants

Some reports indicate that there may be better return of investment and more potential for effectiveness in addressing cleaner stationary power at power plants first, compared to cleaner mobile transport

In addition to this, becoming more efficient or cutting consumption rates can help

Other specific solutions might include – use of public transport where possible over single passenger vehicles (or increasing per passenger mile pollution rates), making cities greener with more vegetation, focussing on solutions in other industries like building energy efficiency, waste management, and also agriculture

Cities, as a place where there are dense populations of people, may be a place to put increased focus on

Particulate matter (particularly fine particulate matter) is a main outdoor air pollutant that might be reduced, but ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are others

There’s an increasing number of cities worldwide that have used different solutions to decrease air pollution already.

Just a few of them are Montreal, Lisbon, Medellin and Seoul, but there’s several others. 

Indoor air pollution can very simply be addressed in developing regions with cleaner indoor electricity systems


How To Reduce (Indoor & Outdoor) Air Pollution

Outdoor (Ambient) Air Pollution

Mainly focus on:

– Using cleaner fuel for vehicles than fossil fuel based fuels like petroleum.

This can include electric cars, hybrid cars and other alternative fuel cars like hydrogen cars

– Using cleaner energy for power/electricity generation than fossil fuel based fuels.

This can include renewable energy like wind, water, solar, but also nuclear energy which is cleaner than coal, gas and oil


Some sources say that when you consider effectiveness of solutions, we might be able to get better returns on reducing outdoor air pollution by focusing on stationary power stations first, rather than mobile vehicles (due to various reasons).

So, where we place focus and how intensely we pursue solutions in each area could be key for short to medium term results.

Other ways to address outdoor air pollution might be:

Making public transport as clean energy as possible

Reducing traffic congestion in cities, encouraging less cars and vehicles, and encouraging walking and bike riding in cities and heavily populated places

Implement stricter standards for vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions

Making cities greener with trees, vegetation, plant life and systems that can absorb contaminants from the air

Improving energy efficiency of households and buildings

Improving waste management to reduce air pollution

Improving energy efficiency in both power plants and business/industry/commercial sectors

Making agriculture cleaner and more sustainable to reduce air pollution from fertilizers and other synthetic chemicals 

Transport, cities (and densely populated areas with humans and concentrated burning of fossil fuels), housing, power generation, waste management, agriculture – are all the main sectors and areas we can focus on


Indoor (Household) Air Pollution

Mainly focus on:

Using modern technology and power for heating, cooking and lighting inside households rather than what is currently used which is open fires & cookstoves burning coal and wood, that emit smoke with harmful air contaminants (mainly in developing countries and poorer areas)


Other ways to address indoor air pollution are:

Increasing ventilation in areas where household pollution is an issue

Examining cultural behavior that contributes to indoor air pollution

Providing economic investment and help to areas that can’t help themselves financially to improve indoor air quality


Air Pollutants To Focus On Reducing

Particulate matter (PM2.5, and PM10) – PM2.5 is one of the main pollutants that is linked to premature human deaths related to air pollution

Ozone (O3)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Sulfur dioxide (SO2).


Read more about how to reduce or prevent indoor and outdoor air pollution at (includes how we can reduce air pollution, and practical alternatives to the principal causes of air pollution).


Examples Of Cities That Have Reduced Their Air Pollution Levels & Increased Air Quality Conditions

You can read about examples of cities that have improved air quality and reduced air pollution in these guides:


Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain

Reduced air pollution emissions by 63%.

They added plants and greenery, reduced vehicle use, and retrofitted buildings


Montréal, Canada

Reduced air pollution emissions by 54%.

They increased tree cover and are reducing fossil fuel using vehicles


Lisbon, Portugal

Reduced air pollution emissions by 50%.

They decreased vehicle usage, as well as started to switch over to electric vehicles


Medellín, Colombia

Reduced air pollution emissions by 33%.

Increased greenery, introduced better transit system, and bike and car sharing projects.


Seoul, Korea

Reduced air pollution emissions by 28%.

Introduced a program providing incentives based on the amount of energy saved



Paris, Delhi, Netherlands, Freiburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, Zurich, Curitiba and Bangalore are all areas that have done something to address and reduce air pollution.






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