Designing Environmentally Effective and Politically Feasible Policies for Cleaner Urban Air in the Global South

What are relevant policy instruments for air pollution reduction in developing urban contexts and how do they vary in effectiveness?

Project Summary

The world is currently experiencing the biggest wave of urban growth in history. While urbanisation is often associated with socio-economic progress, its influence on the general health of populations is mixed. Urban residents, on average, are often confronted with increased health stressors, such as air pollution.

Urban populations in developing contexts are commonly exposed to air pollution levels that are detrimental to public health and the environment. In this context and given competing political positions, policymakers struggle to design effective policy instrument packages.

This project explores the following core components:

  1.  The current urban air pollution policy instruments in six case study cities. How do these policy instruments vary between case studies based on city characteristics and political/ institutional factors across the six cities?
  2. From the local experts and stakeholders’ perspective, which policy instruments are or could be the most effective in reducing urban air pollution? What are the main obstacles to the adoption and implementation of (potentially) effective policy instruments?
  3. Which policy instruments are more likely to garner public support? How does support for policy instruments vary across components of ‘push/pull’ and ‘market/non-market’ initiatives?
  4. Which policy designs (packages) are more likely to maximise political feasibility? How can support for urban air pollution policy designs be optimised for the instruments identified by experts to be environmentally effective?

Drawing upon expert and stakeholder interviews, this project initially identifies (potentially) relevant policy instruments and their anticipated variation in effectiveness, which are then adopted within survey-embedded choice experimental designs to identify clean air policy-instruments and packages. The focus  is primary sources of local air pollution (e.g., vehicles, industry, households, construction). The project studies six capital cities of representative democracies in the Global South with low air quality, notably Accra (GH), Dakar (SN), Delhi (IN), Jakarta (ID), Lima (PE), San Salvador (SV).

Our research will provide both insights on potential solutions to air pollution in these urban areas and develop a foundation for future research on additional urban areas.

Research Team

Thomas Bernauer
ETH Zürich


Keith Smith
ETH Zürich

Vally Koubi
Principal Member
University of Bern





Policy domains


Host Institution