2018 brought home the importance of our work

As the end of 2018 approaches, there is much to be thankful for, and much we acknowledge that still must be done if we are to curtail emissions, improve air quality, and dramatically slow the pace of what has the potential to become runaway global climate change. Indeed, perhaps no year in our 17-year history has driven home as forcefully the importance and urgency of our mission, and the necessity for rapid action to decarbonize our economies if we are to avert impending catastrophe.

Against a backdrop of increasingly ominous news about the perilous state of our planet’s health, the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month provide a fitting summation of the situation we now face: “The findings are clear and the stakes could not be higher. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.”

It is abundantly clear that globally we are facing an imminent existential threat, and that closer to home we are seeing an acceleration in the factors that influence air quality in Asia’s cities, and in our corresponding capacity to manage them. While governments at national and local levels are acknowledging the extent of the challenges and are increasingly channeling resources into mitigation efforts across a range of sectors, the rapid pace of urbanization coupled with continued economic growth is resulting in rising emissions and deteriorating air quality. With global emissions forecast to continue rising in 2019, there can be no more delays in immediately and decisively taking action.

Our 10th Better Air Quality Conference in Kuching, Malaysia, in November, provided a valuable forum for discussion of, and collaboration on, the key issues facing the region. Themed “Regional Action, Global Impact”, it brought together close to 700 participants from 48 countries in one of our most successful conferences yet. The emphasis on regional action was particularly important as it enabled cities, countries and stakeholders to draw attention to proactive air pollution mitigation policies and initiatives, and highlight the technical innovations and solutions that are contributing to more sustainable development in the region. Time, however, is of the essence, and we must step up our efforts in order to avoid worst-case climate scenarios. The goodwill and consensus evident throughout BAQ must carry forward in the years to come as we unite to transform our economies and build cleaner and healthier societies.

The onus of responsibility does not lie solely with governments; we all have a role to play. With access to reliable data, we can all make informed decisions and sustainable policies can be implemented. Our work with cities and countries throughout Asia across multiple sectors gives us confidence that, however daunting, we can meet the challenges. In the past year we have continued to strengthen and build on our existing collaborations and partnerships, as well as forge new relationships with governments at all levels. We have witnessed the willingness of governments to work together more closely to reduce emissions and combat air pollution, and positive steps forward are being taken that are proving successful. In the coming year, it is these successes that will help inspire and guide us on our path to clean air.

On behalf of all the Clean Air Asia team, we wish everyone a happy, safe and productive 2019.

Bjarne Pedersen, Clean Air Asia Executive Director