Bringing experts, local government leaders from Northeast Asian countries and industrial representatives together, the special session organized jointly by ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) during the 2016 Northeast Asia Forum on Air Quality Improvement provided a local and subnational perspective on municipal cooperation for clean air in the East Asia region.
Held on 19-20 May, the forum consisted of presentations, discussions and field visits where participants learned about the strategies of Northeast Asian cities in combating air pollution, especially in terms of cooperation with neighboring cities and countries, as well as international organizations.
Following the adoption of the Seoul Declaration by cities' representatives at the forum held on 19 May, cities and partners participating in the East Asia Clean Air Cities program (EACAC) convened a special session where they expressed their commitment to support the establishment of a new cooperation platform to drive East Asia cities to enhance air quality.
City voices: Seoul and Shenzhen
Kweon Jung, Director General of SMG Research Institute of Public Health and Environment, and Youhua Liu, President of Shenzhen Environmental Science Research Institute introduced their cities’ effort in tackling air pollution during the special session.
Since 2003, Seoul has been actively working on air improvement through regulations and policies. While diesel retrofitting was its focus in earlier years, the city has adopted a more comprehensive approach towards reducing emissions in recent years, including programs like the One Less Nuclear Power Plant Program which aims at enhancing the city’s overall energy efficiency and independence. Such efforts have enabled Seoul to achieve a consistent decline of fine particulate matter PM2.5 and 10 in the past decade. Other initiatives such as the establishment of an online air quality information and forecasting system, has allowed the city to raise public awareness and engage public participation effectively.
Shenzhen’s pollution control began in the 1990s, however, air quality worsened as emission of pollutants continued to increase. In 2004, the number of hazy days reached 184. Since then, Shenzhen government has stepped up its effort to tackle air pollution; in 2015, the number of hazy days dropped to 35. Besides controlling air pollution at the source, the city also works with surrounding cities such as Dongguan and Huizhou. According to the statistics provided by Shenzhen, the city’s concentration of PM2.5, SO2, NO2 and PM10 have substantially declined over the past decade but value of ozone, the main component of smog, remains high.
Expert views and technical options
Lijian Zhao and Tonny Xie from Energy Foundation China (EFC) and the Secretariat for Clean Air Alliance of China (CAAC) and Innovation Center for Clean-Air Solutions (ICCS) introduced the work of their organizations respectively. Acting as a bridge between Chinese national and local governments, the two organizations work with local and international NGOs, as well as air quality experts to help local governments implement relevant projects through funding support, capacity building, technical support, policy advice, research and advocacy.
For instance, the CAAC and EFC, along with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection Foreign Economic Cooperation Office, had jointly launched the “China Clean Air Cities Network” in November 2013 to assist local governments to implement policy on air quality management. Including cities and provinces like Beijing, Tianjin, Guangdong Province, the membership of the network has grown to 31 in 2015.
Chang Deng-Beck, Program Officer of ICLEI World Secretariat Low Carbon Cities shared how ICLEI supports cities to clean air through facilitating city-to-city cooperation and exchange, as well as through other programs that involve technical and financial support. For instance, ICLEI’s GreenClimateCities Program provides a process methodology to guide cities through decision-making processes, while the Solutions Gateway offers an online platform of various well-tested technical solutions to meet the specific needs of different cities.
ICLEI is also an active member of the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, the only global effort uniting governments, civil society and the private sector to improve air quality in the next few decades by reducing short-lived climate pollutants across sectors.
Representing the perspective of solution provider was Dirk Ahlers, Research Scientist from Norway University of Science and Technology, who introduced how the Carbon Track & Trace tool could help local governments to improve air quality by monitoring, reporting and understanding city-level greenhouse gas emissions. By integrating the analysis of these real-time data into decision-making process, the tool allows government leaders to better prioritize and design suitable mitigation projects and policies.
Cities committed to EACAC
The special session was concluded by the introduction of the East Asia Clean Air Cities program. Designed and managed by ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and Seoul Metropolitan Government, the program aims to accelerate local actions against air pollution through long-term regional and multilateral cooperation.
Nine cities and provinces including Beijing, Guiyang, Jinan, Shenzhen, Sichuan Province (China), Tokyo, Kitakyushu (Japan), Seoul (South Korea) and Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) have committed to this program and will work closely together in the coming months to identify the needs of the participating cities, as well as the solutions and best practices that they can share with others.