Lockdowns had also revealed the speed with which air quality could be improved with less traffic and industrial activity, making urban areas more livable, he noted.
"There really is an opportunity to tackle this problem. We know what the solutions are, the benefits can be felt immediately, and who doesn't want to have healthier people and cleaner air?" he said.
Desire for change
In a survey conducted by the Clean Air Fund in May and June, at least two-thirds of citizens in Britain, India, Nigeria, Poland and Bulgaria said they supported stricter regulation to tackle air pollution.
In Nigeria and India, more than 90 percent of respondents wanted to see air quality improved in their area.
On Monday, Colombia's capital Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil joined 35 other cities worldwide in recognizing breathing clean air as a human right and committing to set targets to cut pollution and implement clean air policies by 2025.
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“The pandemic taught us that we have to change the way we work, consume and transport ourselves,” said Bogotá Mayor Claudia López.
That meant burning less gasoline and diesel, and walking and cycling more, she added.
Whitney of the Clean Air Fund said spending development aid on cleaner public transport was an efficient use of money because it tackled both air quality and climate change while enabling people to access jobs and services more easily.