Three years ago, the World Health Organisation confirmed what many people had long suspected: that air pollution has become the single biggest environmental health risk.

Linked to about seven million deaths a year, indoor pollution from coal and wood stoves, and outdoor pollution from burning coal and traffic fumes, kills more people than road deaths, diabetes and smoking combined.

Last year the WHO delivered some more worrying news. According to data gathered from more than 3,000 cities, outdoor air pollution grew eight per cent globally in the previous five years. And the most concerning cities? Rapidly growing metropolises in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the western Pacific, where many cities reported pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO-recommended levels.

Virgin unite, sustainia, scania

Virgin unite, sustainia, scania

A case in point is Jakarta, a mega-city with a population of more than 10 million and where it’s estimated that more than half of all illnesses are caused by the air pollution. However, the Indonesian capital is also home to a potential live-saver.

To help transform Jakarta’s congested and high-emissions transport system, the global transportation company Scania has developed a fleet of clean-burning buses. They run on either natural or biogas, and operate on the Transjakarta Bus Rapid Transit system. Almost 231 kilometres long, it’s the world’s longest bus route and served more than 123 million passengers in 2016.

Scania introduced the first of more than 100 tailor-made and ultra-clean Euro 6 buses on a downtown bus corridor in 2015. It plans to double the number of buses operating in Jakarta, to help the city shift to a clean and sustainable public transport system. Indeed, alternative fuels used in buses help decarbonise the transportation sector, which accounts for 15 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions every year. Furthermore, it will hopefully incentivise public transport over inefficient private transportation.

Virgin unite, sustainia, scania

Virgin unite, sustainia, scania

Solutions such as Scania’s could have economic ramifications, too. After all, air pollution is expensive. In OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries alone, it is estimated to cost $1.7 trillion every year.

But improving global public health remains the most pressing need. In that light, clean transportation systems, such as the one developed in Jakarta, will help decrease air pollution and congestion problems and contribute to healthier living in cities.

“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” said Dr Maria Neira, director of public health at the WHO in 2016. “It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with terrible future costs to society.”

Time, then, to get on the bus – the clean-burning bus.


This innovation is part of the Global Opportunity Explorer – a platform which offers direct access to leading sustainable innovations around the world. The Explorer is a joint project of Sustainia, DNV GL and the UN Global Compact. Rooted in over five years of research involving 17,000 business leaders and 17 expert panels, it guides you through hundreds of solutions and market opportunities which address the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Discover more on goexplorer.org, and follow the latest news @sustainia and #GOexplorer.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

Comment