A pioneering approach to urban air quality management in Asia

Clean Air Asia yesterday launched the groundbreaking Guidance Framework for Better Air Quality in Asian Cities, providing a viable solution to the growing air pollution problems facing countries and cities throughout the region.

The Guidance Framework, organized around key areas of concern in Asia, equips countries and cities with the knowledge and direction needed to effectively reduce air pollution, mapping out the steps and actions to be taken by national and local-level policymakers and decision-makers to improve air quality.

With the health impacts of air pollution being felt most severely in Asia, where seven in 10 cities have unhealthy levels of pollution, and amid global calls for action to address the issue, improving air quality has increasingly become a priority for national and municipal governments throughout the region.

“This is for us, and hopefully for cities across Asia, a significant and transformative event,” said Clean Air Asia Executive Director Bjarne Pedersen at the Manila launch. “There is now a profound understanding about the scale of the problem that we face. And let’s not underestimate the scale of the problem, the challenge that we face in terms of worsening air quality – air pollution is seen as the largest environmental risk worldwide.”

There is now a profound understanding about the scale of the problem that we face … air pollution is seen as the largest environmental risk worldwide

Guests at the launch included Ministry of Environment officials from the Philippines, Viet Nam, Mongolia and China, city representatives from Metro Manila, and representatives from Philippine government agencies, civil society organizations and academia. Speakers from the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Institute of Technology all highlighted the importance and significance of the Guidance Framework.

ADB Environment Specialist Emma Marsden said: “The scale of the air pollution challenge faced by the region is illustrated by the fact that globally more than half of the premature deaths from air pollution in 2013 occurred in China and India. And by 2050 there will be another 300 million people living in cities in China and another 400 million people added to cities in India.

“The Asian Development Bank congratulates Clean Air Asia on leading the development of the Guidance Framework for better air quality in Asian cities. Given the increasing global and regional calls to action to improve worsening air quality in the region, this will be an invaluable resource.”

The voluntary and non-binding Guidance Framework – developed in consultation with environment ministries, experts and air quality management stakeholders – features six specific areas of guidance: Ambient air quality standards and monitoring; emissions inventories and modeling; health and other impacts; air quality communication; clean air plans; and governance.

Regional Air Quality Management Expert Dr Kim Oanh from the Asian Institute of Technology said it was a pioneering initiative that could help countries and cities strengthen their air quality management capacity to address the region’s growing air pollution problems.

“Users will benefit from the Guidance Framework, both at the national and local level. Through the roadmap, the capacity of local and national and local-level policymakers and stakeholders to improve air quality management will increase. And if we improve air quality management, we get cleaner air.”

Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna said: “The Philippines is grateful for the privilege to be part of this undertaking in partnership with Clean Air Asia.”

In a message sent from Kazumi Yoshikawa, Director of the International Cooperation Office, Environment Management Bureau, Ministry of the Environment, Japan (MOEJ), it was stressed how important a tool the Guidance Framework was for the region.

“The publication of the Guidance Framework will be extremely valuable to Asia, where trans-boundary air pollution has become a significant problem. The MOEJ has been actively supporting the Guidance Framework as the key element of Clean Air Asia’s Integrated Programme for Better Air Quality in Asia, or IBAQ Programme. We will continue to support activities around the Guidance Framework in the years to come.”

The publication of the Guidance Framework will be extremely valuable to Asia

Clean Air Asia and its IBAQ Programme will provide support in implementing the Guidance Framework as well as assessments of cities’ air quality and plans of actions.

“I want to reiterate Clean Air Asia’s support to cities and support for the implementation of the Guidance Framework,” Mr Pedersen said. “We are committed to providing actionable guidance to assist countries and cities across the region in improving air quality management and, ultimately, protecting public health and the environment.

“The next stage is training on the implementation of the Guidance Framework, as well as training in other issues such as governance and scientifically based decision-making, co-benefits, application of the air quality management status, and developing a plan to improve management capacity.

“Clean Air Asia has a proud history of helping cities to evaluate exactly where they are in their cycle of air quality management and providing expert assistance, where we give cities very clear-cut solutions to, for instance, the technical problems they face.”

For more information, contact Dang Espita at +632 6311042 or [email protected].