South Korea and China announced plans to strengthen cooperation to reduce fine dust pollution last week, both countries detailing efforts to tackle longstanding air quality issues as officials from around the world attended an international forum in Seoul on air pollution and climate change.
According to Arirang news, South Korean environment minister Cho Myung-rae and his Chinese counterpart Li Ganjie signed an action plan for the Clear Sky Project, which was first mooted in February when the two countries agreed to hold policy consultations on air pollution once a year.
The action plan involves cooperation in three areas: policy and information exchanges, joint research and commercialization of technology.
Under the plan, South Korea will install “environmentally friendly technology” in China’s coal-fired power plants, while China will increase the number of cities put under joint monitoring of air quality; and both countries agreed to exchange information on fine dust forecasting.
At the International Forum on Air Pollution and Climate Change, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon announced that results of joint research on fine dust by South Korea, China and Japan would be released later this month.
On the same day, the Prime Minister’s office also announced that the country was to close six older coal-fired power plants by 2021, a year earlier than previously planned, which accounts for 7 per cent of the country’s total installed coal power capacity, according to Reuters.
On Wednesday, the government launched a draft bill aimed at cutting air pollution by 40 per cent over the next five years, according to the Chosun Ilbo, containing “measures to limit pollutants from industrial sites and cars in Seoul and other major cities”.
In the lead-up to international meeting, the country also announced a marine Emission Control Area, in which ocean-going vessels navigating at or near its major seaports would have to switch to ultra-low sulfur diesel, under a timetable that requires the use of fuel with no more than 0.5 per cent sulfur content from 1 January 2020.
Cross-boundary air pollution issues has been a focus in east Asia region in the last few weeks; earlier in October, representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights from Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand called on ASEAN member nations to fully commit to its agreement on transboundary haze, urging them to acknowledge transboundary haze as a danger to basic human rights.
The ASEAN human rights body said in a media statement: “Poor air quality affects the quality of life of the individuals living in the Asean region. It also impinges upon the enjoyment of a range of human rights that are protected in the 2012 Asean Human Rights Declaration.
“These include the right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of health and an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment.”
Banner photo by Mycroyance/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0