The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is organizing a series of six virtual dialogues and one knowledge sharing workshop to identify opportunities to address air pollution in Asia and the Pacific. These dialogues will focus on strengthening regional cooperation and facilitate a broader exchange of innovative air pollution solutions and best practices, including policies, data and technologies, and capacity needs.
Clean air is among the public goods that will contribute to sustainable, resilient and inclusive recoveries. Yet air pollution, a transboundary environmental challenge that threatens all countries in Asia-Pacific, continues to increase and actions to date have been insufficient to protect the health of populations, food and water security, and the emerging economies across the region. Roughly 70 percent of the nearly seven million deaths due to air pollution globally occur in the region, which has recorded some of the highest air pollution levels.
The dialogue on East and North-East Asia is part of a sub-regional dialogue series. Dialogues will also be held for North and Central Asia, South-East Asia and South and South-West Asia, in coordination with the respective Sub-regional Offices and the United Nations Environment Programme. Moreover, two thematic dialogues are organized in all subregions, focusing on: 1) Data and Technologies for Air Pollution and 2) Health and Gender Implications.
Each sub-regional dialogue is structured to include two segments:
1) High-level dialogue for senior officials to be focused on regional cooperation, including through enhanced regional modalities. The summaries of high-level dialogues will inform further consultations and preparations for the 7th ESCAP Committee on Environment and Development in 2022 for its deliberation and action;
2) Technical segment for other senior government officials, experts from academia and think tanks, representatives from international organizations and other relevant stakeholders from the respective sub-region. The technical segment will focus on the sharing of technical solutions such as air quality monitoring and forecasting, establishment of a publicly accessible geoportal for spatial information that integrates satellite and aerial data with ground-based sensor networks, as well as on health and gender implications.
OBJECTIVES OF THE DIALOGUES
The overall objective of the sub-regional dialogues is to generate specific recommendations for the following:
- Strengthening regional cooperation, including regional modalities and harmonized air quality standards, based on the WHO air quality guidelines;
- Addressing knowledge needs/gaps and mechanisms (geo-portals, use of knowledge management hub, communities of practice);
- Enhancing the use of data and technologies to inform policies;
- Identifying most appropriate clean air solutions and means to accelerate implementation;
- Further building the capacity needs to ensure policy development/implementation.
The recommendations from the dialogues will be compiled in a policy brief that will be shared with member states to mainstream adoption of the solutions and provide the basis for more effective regional cooperation. The dialogues will facilitate peer-to-peer and regional level sharing of lessons learned and allow member states to share specific technical solutions with country stakeholders and to strengthen the air pollution data generated by governments and partner institutions. Further, the dialogues will strengthen the community of practice on air pollution which will provide momentum and support for regional cooperation and action.
The policy brief will serve as the foundation for a knowledge-sharing workshop/side event to be organized in conjunction with the 9th Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and inform the preparatory processs for the 7th ESCAP Committee on Environment and Development.
AIR POLLUTION IN EAST AND NORTH-EAST ASIA
East and North-East Asia has a robust air quality monitoring network with some of the best global data coverage and availability. Data in this region is mostly provided by governments, with China, Japan, and South Korea hosting the largest governmental networks.
Several international co-operation efforts to address air quality and transboundary pollution have been established since the 1990s at different levels of government. The key regional co-operation arrangements are: the North-East Asian Subregional Programme for Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC) which operates the North-East Asia Clean Air Partnership (NEACAP); the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting (TEMM) which operates the Tripartite Policy Dialogue on Air Pollution (TPDAP) and the former Joint Research Project on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollutants in North-East Asia (LTP). Multilateral co-operation efforts for air quality in the region remain limited in their scope and focus mainly on data collection and exchange of information.
Overall, multilateral arrangements are yet to produce a coherent regional approach to address transboundary air pollution and more efforts are required in the region to promote clean air and curb transboundary pollution. Nevertheless, all countries in the region have made air pollution a top political priority in recent years with a special focus on particulate material (PM) and initiated comprehensive actions on air pollution. Hence, there is a strong momentum for enhancing regional co-operation.
 Kauffmann, C. and C. Saffirio (2020), "Study of International Regulatory Co-operation (IRC) arrangements for air quality: The cases of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, and co-operation in North East Asia", OECD Regulatory Policy Working Papers, No. 12, OECD Publishing, Paris,