ASEAN countries unite to tackle air pollution and climate change

Air pollution is not a problem just faced by one country but by many, crossing borders. In the ASEAN region, we must all do our part to address air pollution and mitigate climate change

With a better understanding of the many benefits of coordinated air pollution and climate change mitigation strategies, ASEAN countries strengthened their commitment to collaboratively address regional air quality issues during a three-day Clean Air Asia capacity building workshop in Manila.

The “Realizing Co-benefits through Air Pollution Reduction Strategies and Climate Change Policies” workshop from November 22-24, supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and in partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat, brought together 27 people from eight ASEAN countries to harmonize and align air quality initiatives and climate change policies, which in turn will enable cities in the region to capitalize on multiple economic, environmental and health returns.

The workshop provided a venue for the participants – representatives of the ASEAN Working Group of Environmentally Sustainable Cities and the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change – to interact, share experiences and identify areas of potential synergy.

This was particularly important given that Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest growing regions and home to up to 580 million city dwellers, with that growth largely fueled by the rapid rate of urban expansion. And while that expansion presented a range of sustainability challenges, there also existed opportunities to develop and implement policies that simultaneously improved air quality and helped to offset the impacts of climate change.

“This training is particularly relevant for ASEAN given the pace of urbanization in key cities in the region, making them into fast-growing sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases,” said Clean Air Asia Executive Director Bjarne Pedersen.

“Recognizing co-benefits can potentially save resources and time for governments and will enable ASEAN countries and cities to not only attract new flows of carbon and development financing, but also to reduce the region’s vulnerability to climate change impacts. For these reasons, ASEAN countries and cities are well positioned to capitalize on the quantification and integration of co-benefits into policies.”

The workshop also included a site visit to the Asian Development Bank to introduce participants to some of its climate change initiatives and the opportunities that exist for governments in the region to access climate funding and support, and to demonstrate how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through the adoption of more efficient and greener technologies.

Among those in attendance at the workshop were Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines John Holmes and Canadian Ambassador to ASEAN Marie-Louise Hannan, both of whom praised the regional commitment to address climate change and the worsening air pollution problem plaguing Southeast Asia.

“Air pollution is not a problem just faced by one country but by many, crossing borders,” Ms. Hannan said. “In the ASEAN region, we must all do our part to address air pollution and mitigate climate change.

“It is very clear that there is much commitment in the region to this difficult problem. It is easy for Canada to support these initiatives as a clean environment is important to all of us but a difficult problem to solve. I admire and thank the people for their commitment and dedication to find solutions to the problem, which is critical for Asia and the world.”

The workshop complemented Clean Air Asia’s current partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat, which began with the Train-for-Clean-Air (T4CA) Programme in 2014.  T4CA is a regional training approach adopted by GIZ’s “Clean Air for Smaller Cities in the ASEAN Region” Project, which wound up in 2015, that was aimed at assisting cities in the development and implementation of clean air plans and in making informed air quality policies and decisions. The co-benefits course was developed in 2014 by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, with support from the Ministry of Environment of Japan, under Clean Air Asia’s Integrated Programme for Better Air Quality in Asia (IBAQ Programme).

Since 2014, Clean Air Asia has been the Regional Training Hub on Air Quality under the framework of ASEAN Working Group for Environmentally Sustainable Cities. T4CA is comprised of six courses aimed at different city-level stakeholders: The Strategic Framework for Air-Quality Management (AQM) for High-Level Decision-Makers; AQ Monitoring for Smaller Cities; Emissions Inventories for Smaller Cities; Awareness-Raising for Media and Civil Society Groups; Developing Effective AQM Communication Strategy; and Curbing Emissions from the Transport Sector.