Over the past two decades, particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels have remained fairly constant for most of the world. However, since 2013, air pollution’s course has been made up of two competing regional trends. China has had staggering success in combating pollution since declaring a “war on pollution” in 2014, reducing its pollution by about 42 percent from 2013 to 2021. This decrease in pollution is extending its population’s average life expectancy by 2.2 years, provided the reductions are sustained. In fact, a small decline in global pollution levels from 2013 to 2021 is due entirely to China’s progress.
Meanwhile, 59 percent of the world’s increase in pollution over that time came from India. India and its neighboring South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan saw their pollution increase by almost 10 percent from 2013 to 2021. Much of this increase in pollution is due to the burning of high amounts of fossil fuels without the policy safeguards China and other countries have imposed. And, it’s having a devastating impact on South Asian lives. As of 2021, more than half of the total life years lost globally due to high pollution came from South Asia, with South Asians on average seeing their lives cut short by 5 years due to high pollution.