This article is the by Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
Ministers and senior level officials from Southeast Asia gathered in the Philippines on 24-25 July 2019 for the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable Discussion on Clean Air, Health and Climate. It was hosted by the Philippine government—through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Climate Change Commission and Department of Health (DOH), and co-organized with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC).
“Through this special ministerial meeting, we bring together governments from the ASEAN region and beyond to address the nexus of air pollution, public health and global climate action,” said Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel De Guzman when he welcomed the delegates. “Now more than ever, we need to maximize the social and economic benefits from reducing short-lived climate pollutants. This is what inspires us to come together today. In the ASEAN culture of cooperation and unity, we want to foster a community of practitioners to tackle climate and air pollution in an integrated way to deliver a safer and more sustainable future.”
The meeting also brought together experts and scientists in the ASEAN region and beyond to share local initiatives and insights toward global climate action, clean air and health that can simultaneously meet the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of each country.
During the event, ASEAN member-countries shared information on how they are responding to the Special Report on Global Warming 1.5°C published by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018. This report emphasized the need for early action on ALL climate forcing emissions, including short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) as part of the pathway to stay well below 2°C as agreed by the parties to the Paris accord.
Professor Frank Murray presented the “Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-Based Solutions” released last year. This report identified 25 clean air measures which if implemented across the region would result in 1 billion people enjoying clean air at the strictest ambient standards of the World Health Organization by 2030. These proposed measures would also deliver 0.3°C reduced global warming relative to 2015 – reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 19 percent, methane by 44 percent, and black carbon by 77 percent by 2040-2050.
“The good news is that governments in Asia have successfully adopted and implemented policies aiming to control air pollution levels and if fully-enforced, would enable 80% economic growth by 2030 without air pollution getting worse. The bad news is that it won’t get better if no further measures are taken,” according to Prof. Murray.
In 2015 fewer than 8% of Asia’s population was exposed to healthy air – within the World Health Organization (WHO) PM2.5 guideline value of 10 µg/m3. About 4 billion people in Asia in 2015 were exposed to levels of PM2.5that posed significant risks to their health.
Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, explains why we can no long afford to wait to act on air pollution.
“The world is at a critical point where there is both an air pollution health emergency and a climate crisis,” said Head of the CCAC Secretariat, Helena Molin Valdes. “We are encouraged to work with the ASEAN region and countries to make this a shared priority that also supports the development priorities of countries in the region.
“Our vision is an atmosphere that enables people and the planet to thrive. The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York this September is an opportunity present the pledges and plans from the countries in the region that will increase ambition on climate, health and air pollution, efficient cooling and other initiatives to step up action.”
Delegates of the meeting discussed messages and opportunities for making individual pledges to upscale climate actions during the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York in September and in the 15th ASEAN Plus Three Environment Ministers Meeting in October.
Dr. Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Singapore, said that her government takes air pollution and climate change issues seriously and have taken early measures on air pollution, which are part of a suite of mitigation measures to address climate change. Dr. Khor suggested 4 significant steps that the ASEAN countries can take. First, countries need to benchmark efforts to address air pollution with WHO guidelines; Second, countries must set targets and monitor them carefully. Third, countries must adopt a comprehensive set of measures to control air pollution and climate change. Finally, countries must enhance cooperation and cut transboundary air pollution.
Mr. Choup Paris, Deputy Secretary General, General Secretariat of National Council for Sustainable Development of Cambodia, emphasized that his country is strongly committed to global climate action, and has set up national priorities related to clean air, health and climate. Mr. Paris stressed the importance of regional cooperation of nations and has called for the creation of a proper mechanism in the ASEAN to mobilise resources to help countries
Japan believes that one of the most effective ways to achieve the additional emission reduction is to implement lifecycle management of fluorocarbons, which include both upstream measures, such as new refrigerant development and facilitating the transition, and downstream measures, including proper management of leaked and discarded HFCs. “The CCAC’s new Efficient Cooling Initiative can be one of the good opportunities to realize this concept. Japan would like to cooperate with ASEAN countries, CCAC, and all participants here,” said Mr. Satoru Morishita, Vice Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Environment, Japan.
Mr. Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, reiterated that current global efforts are not sufficient to meet the goals and targets of the Paris goals and targets agreed by governments. “Air pollution is at the heart of social justice and global inequality, and by addressing that, we will also address the very critical aspect of social and economic issues. Air pollution is part of the climate emergency,” said Mr. Sarmad.
This high-level roundtable is part of the Philippines’ contribution to the “CCAC Action Programme to Address the 1.5˚C Challenge” in Katowice, Poland, launched during COP24 in 2018. This program was developed by Coalition partners in response to the IPCC 1.5˚C Special Report released in 2018 which emphasized the need for early action on all climate forcing emissions, including short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), as part of the pathway to stay well below 2˚C.