2017: A year of growth, expansion and regional air quality gains

As 2017 draws to a close, it is with much pride that we look back on a year marked by organizational and programmatic expansion, numerous project successes, fruitful collaborations and partnerships across multiple sectors, and a range of air quality gains throughout Asia. As the air pollution crisis assumes a greater level of urgency and political importance throughout the region, in tandem with a growing level of public awareness, national and local governments are increasingly prioritizing mitigation efforts and coming together in a spirit of cooperation to proactively address the challenges being faced.

In Manila, our Air Quality and Climate Change and Sustainable Transport teams continued to work closely with, and provide technical support for, numerous Philippine government departments, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Finance, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Trade and Industry. In Viet Nam, we helped to draft and launch a Clean Air Action Plan in the city of Can Tho, and we assisted with the implementation of a national green freight program. We worked on the development of emissions inventories in both Viet Nam and Mongolia to help local and national governments identify and more effectively target key emissions sources. Our efforts in Mongolia also included input into the Draft Action Plan and National Action Program on Reducing Air Pollution. And we worked throughout the ASEAN region on fuel economy baseline standards and associated policy development, closely coordinating with governments in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia, and with Indonesian officials on the institutionalization of eco-driving, and the Asian Development Bank on the launch of the landmark Transport DataBank covering 40 ADB Developing Member Countries in the Asia-Pacific region to support more sustainable transport policies. It is a testament to the hard work and success of our team that our efforts are generating growing news coverage nationally, regionally and internationally, and the Manila office is fielding an increasing number of inquiries for media interviews and comments from well-known and respected media agencies.

Our China team continued to lead the way in air quality management, building on the solid foundations and strong relationships they have built throughout the years, as well as forging new partnerships at both national and city levels. The innovative Mr Trucker eco-driving campaign saw Chinese truck drivers achieve an average of 7.4 percent savings in fuel consumption, and a range of air quality workshops held across the country drew hundreds of participants from government, city officials, experts, industry representatives and academics, and provided valuable platforms for collaboration, experience-sharing, the application of science-based research, and support for policy development. More than 50 local NGOs were trained in the negative health and environmental impacts of diesel engine exhaust pollution and advocacy focused on clean diesel campaigns, and the China Clean Transport Partnership was launched with the Energy Foundation China, China Academy of Transport Science, and 10 other leading organizations with the aim of promoting clean transportation policy development in China. Importantly, the China office has become a key commentator for foreign media coverage of China’s air quality, and has conducted interviews with such renowned international agencies as Reuters, Associated Press, National Geographic, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Our India team has been moving from strength to strength, positioning themselves at the forefront of national air pollution discourse and earning sustained media coverage through their many innovative initiatives, and are now becoming recognized throughout the country as a leader in India’s air quality management efforts. The success of the recently ended Cleaner Air for Schools project, supported by the FIA Foundation and in partnership with the London Sustainability Exchange, resulted in an invitation to present project findings at the International Conference on Child Health and Mobility in London. This prompted London Mayor Sadiq Khan to visit one of the project schools, Maharaja Agarsain Public School in Ashok Vihar, in December to have a first-hand look at the students’ efforts. Also gaining media attention are the India team’s Clean Air Knowledge Network promoting best practice-sharing between cities and providing a forum for shared resources from city officials, research institutions, civil society and academia, and its youth network Youth Can (YCan), which has been extended to three cities and now boasts a membership of more than 100 university and college students.

Perhaps the most important message underpinning our efforts this past year is that we are in a race against time. Collectively, we stand at a critical juncture and must work together to reduce the harmful pollutant emissions and greenhouse gases that are accelerating the pace of global climate change. The need for vision, unity and collaboration is manifest, and through the increasing willingness and commitment of national and city governments to collaborate with other stakeholders in the fight against air pollution, it is evident in the that our message is being heard.

As we usher in 2018 – the year of our 10th Better Air Quality conference, to be held from 12-16 November in Kuching, Sarawak, in Malaysia – we look forward to a year of new opportunities, and new concepts, designs and approaches that will help us chart new and more sustainable future horizons for all humanity.

On behalf of all Clean Air Asia staff, we wish everyone a happy, safe and productive 2018.

Bjarne Pedersen, Clean Air Asia Executive Director