I.          Background

         The rapid economic development in Asian countries has been associated with growing urbanization, motorization, industrialization and an increased use of energy. Together, these processes have resulted in increased pressure on urban environmental systems, including urban air quality. Urban air pollution is a serious threat to the health and well-being of people in the region. The World Health Organization estimates that urban air pollution causes over half a million premature deaths yearly in Asia and that it affects the lives of millions of people negatively. A recent ADB and CAI-Asia study estimates the economic costs of urban air pollution to range from 2% to 4% of GDP. 

         The First Governmental Meeting on Urban Air Quality in Asia was jointly organized by CAI-Asia, UNCRD, UNEP and Ministry of Environment Indonesia during 13-14 December, 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The Meeting aimed to support the efforts of Asian Governments to arrive at optimal air pollution abatement strategies. The meeting was attended by representatives of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam as well as representatives from a number of international organizations which acted as observers to the meeting, including ADB, World Bank, UN-ESCAP, SEI, WHO. 

II.         Opening Session

        Opening remarks were delivered by H.E. Rachmat Witoelar, State Minister of Environment, Government of Indonesia; Kong Ha, Chairperson CAI-Asia; Surendra Shrestha, Regional Director UNEP; and Kazunobu Onogawa, Director UNCRD.  The speakers emphasized the need for coordinated efforts among different stakeholders to improve urban quality in the Asian region.

III.        Country Synthesis Presentations

         Brief presentations were delivered by participating countries summarizing the current status and trends of air quality and air quality management in their respective countries. The key issues identified were the growing urbanization and associated motorization and increase in energy use.  Several initiatives to improve air quality at country and city level were reported. However, the need for additional capacity building for urban air quality management was identified as a common priority for the majority of developing countries represented at the meeting.

        The level of fine particulates in most Asian cities is the pollutant of main concern. In some regions, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is an important pollutant. The rapid increase in motorization is producing increases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) emissions. While these pollutants are still below maximum allowable levels in many parts of Asia, experiences from countries with high levels of motorization underscore the need to start addressing these pollutants before they become a serious problem.

IV.        Thematic Presentations

        Thematic presentations were delivered by key resource persons on a range of topics relevant to the Asian urban air quality agenda, including ambient air quality guideline values and standards; fuel road maps in the transport sector; the use of hydrogen energy for the transport sector; energy efficiency in the transport sector; co-benefits of urban air quality management and climate change; and eco-housing concepts.

        The Meeting acknowledged the need for continued and intensified action to improve urban air quality in Asian cities. The Meeting took note that efforts by local and national governments and other stakeholders to prevent and control urban air pollution initiated in previous years have started to produce results and that ambient air quality in Asia, on average, is generally improving despite substantial increases in urban population, motorization and energy use. Notwithstanding the positive results of air quality management (AQM) efforts so far, it is accepted that additional, intensified efforts are required to bring air quality levels within national ambient air quality standards.

        The Meeting underlined the importance of effective and sustained approaches to improve urban air quality in Asian cities through:

a)      AQM based on sound science. This calls for strengthening of AQ monitoring, particularly the Quality Assurance and Quality Control of monitoring and the regular composition of emission inventories and source apportionment studies.At present, the absence of reliable emission inventories and source apportionment studies is a key obstacle for the improvement of air quality management in Asian cities;

b)      AQM efforts at urban, national, regional and global levels should be increasingly coordinated and linked. These regional efforts would have a positive impact on regional air quality  and help shape urban air quality management;

c)      Effective policies and programs that are put in place, and which address the underlying causes for urban air pollution in Asia. The promotion of sustainable urban transport, clean technologies and energy conservation programs could help prevent significant amounts of emissions but need to be combined with immediate actions to address current sources of air pollution from mobile and stationary sources. The adoption of sustainable urban transport, clean technologies and energy conservation programs would be facilitated by the development and adoption of appropriate incentive programs.

d)      A co-benefits strategy combining and integrating urban air quality management and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The adoption of a co-benefit strategy could produce more effective results than if urban air quality management and climate change mitigation are pursued separately; and

e)      Local and national governments, civil society, academe and the business sector joining forces in implementing air pollution prevention and control measures.

V.         Recommendations

         The Meeting underlined the need for strengthening awareness of the impacts of urban air pollution and the potential strategies to prevent and control urban air pollution. We support the sharing of information on AQM, and exploring the possibility of developing and adopting common AQM methods and standards. The Meeting expressed support, on a voluntary basis, for the following initiatives presented and discussed in the Meeting:

a)      Development of a long term Vision on urban air quality in Asia.   Such a long term vision will describe the desired state of urban air quality management in Asian cities and can help inspire Asian cities and countries in the development of their air quality management policies and programs. The  Meeting welcomed the initiative of UNEP and CAI-Asia to develop this vision statement which could be presented and discussed at a possible Second Governmental Meeting on Urban Air Quality in Asia or at another appropriate forum or meeting;

b)      Review of ambient air quality standards and Air Pollution Indexes. Asian countries use different methodologies to classify their air quality and to communicate the results of air quality monitoring to the general public. A comparison of air pollution indices (APIs) used in different countries can enhance their effectiveness.

c)   Develop roadmaps for fuel quality and vehicle emission standards for new vehicles. CAI-Asia has taken the initiative in the development of a roadmap to improve fuel quality and to tighten vehicle emission standards. This roadmap forms a good basis for policymakers in Asia in their efforts to reduce emissions from mobile sources. As a next step, individual countries are invited to formulate their own roadmaps for fuel quality improvement and tightening of new vehicle emission standards, which take into consideration the countries’ specific policy context and situation.

d) Address fuel quality for stationary sources. There is a need to start addressing the quality of fuels used by stationary sources.  Compared to mobile sources less attention has been given to the
development of road maps to improve fuel quality for stationary sources. The development of such roadmaps could commence with documenting existing fuel qualities and the impact of the use of cleaner fuels on emissions of stationary sources. The improvement of fuel quality for stationary sources will, in the majority of cases, be part of a more comprehensive and integrated strategy to reduce emissions from stationary sources.

e)   Strengthening, development, and implementation of strategies to control emissions from in-use vehicles. This could include the regular inspection of in-use vehicles as well the regulation or control of the useful life of in-use vehicles and improved testing for imported used vehicles to ensure that they comply with emission regulations as specified by individual countries.

f)    Strengthening of environmental sustainable transport policies and systems. To be able to provide the required mobility for a more sustainable movement of goods and persons, it is important to encourage the use of mass public transport systems through adopting supportive and enabling policy and investment frameworks.

g)   Promote the use of clean alternative and renewable energy. Fossil fuel is an important energy source which will be depleted sooner or later and is a major source of emissions. It is important to promote the development and use of alternative and renewable energy sources.

h)  Promote Eco-housing. The rapid urbanization in Asia is resulting in a large demand for housing. Asian countries need to consider the energy and emission implications of the millions of additional homes that will need to be constructed. Information is now available on the use of eco-buildings with alternative designs and energy systems which can reduce the energy demand and associated pollutant emissions to a considerable extent.

i)    Support principles underlined in the Aichi Statement. The recommendations made by the participants of the First Meeting of the Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum organized by UNCRD in Nagoya in August 2005, as outlined in the Aichi Statement, could help Asian cities and countries to achieve environment and people friendly urban transport in Asia. 

       The implementation of these initiatives will require the broad based support of stakeholders within and outside the region and the Meeting expressed the need for the international development community to provide technical and financial assistance in support of the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations.

       The Meeting agreed to explore the possibility of organizing the Second Governmental Meeting on Urban Air Quality in Asia in 2008 to further discuss urban air quality management in Asia.

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