ICLEI bridged municipal cooperation for clean air between Northeast Asian cities

Bringing experts, local government leaders from Northeast Asian countries, and industrial representatives together, the special session organized jointly by the ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and the Seoul Metropolitan Government during the 2016 Northeast Asia Forum on Air Quality Improvement provided a local and subnational perspective on municipal cooperation for clean air in the region.

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 (EACAC) program 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 the Research Institute of Public Health and Environment at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and Youhua Liu, President of Shenzhen Environmental Science Research Institute introduced their cities’ efforts 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 to 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 in 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, have 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 the emission of pollutants continued to increase. In 2004, the number of hazy days reached 184. Since then, the 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 the value of ozone, the main component of smog, remains high.


Expert Views and Technical Options

Lijian Zhao and Tonny Xie from Energy Foundation China 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, CAAC and EFC, along with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection Foreign Economic Cooperation Office, 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, and 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.


Municipal Cooperation for Clean Air

The special session was concluded with the introduction of EACAC. Designed and managed by ICLEI East Asia and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the program aims to accelerate local actions against air pollution through long-term regional and multilateral cooperation.

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