Hong Kong, December 5, 2012
“Air quality exceeds safe standards in the vast majority of developing Asian cities with the most recent WHO assessment finding that 1.3 million people worldwide of which over 800,000 in the developing countries of Asia die prematurely each year, an unacceptable toll for a preventable problem with effective solutions”, said Robert O’Keefe, Vice President of the Health Effects Institute and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Clean Air Asia. His remarks were made at the opening of the Better Air Quality (BAQ) 2012 conference, which opened today in Hong Kong. Over 700 participants from over 30 countries will discuss how to create livable and low emission cities in Asia, and keep citizens safe from the harmful health impacts of urban air pollution.
“BAQ 2012 provides a timely platform for Hong Kong and regional policy makers, academics, practitioners, NGOs and technology providers to share best practices and strengthen cooperation in their common quest for better air quality in the course of a more sustainable urban development”, said Professor Timothy W. Tong, President of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which is the host of the three-day conference. The Better Air Quality Conference was first organized in Hong Kong, 10 years ago. It is now organized every 2 years and has become the leading regional event on air quality management.
“Key data will be released this BAQ 2012, which documents that air pollution and emission of CO2 from key sectors in Asia are growing faster than regional Gross Domestic Product. 7 cities out of 10 in Asia do not meet the most lenient air quality target for particulate matter recommended by the World Health Organization” said Sophie Punte, Executive Director of Clean Air Asia. “It is critical that we accelerate the large scale deployment of proven technologies and policies to reverse this worrying trend”.
“Air quality is an area of top concern for the new administration in Hong Kong,” said Wong Kamsing, the Secretary for the Environment, the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while welcoming the participants to BAQ 2012. “Hong Kong is setting the bar higher for air quality management and new stricter AQ targets will come into force in 2014. These targets and supporting measures will be reviewed and revised on a 5 yearly basis with the aim to gradually meet WHO air quality guidelines and targets”.
Li Pei, Deputy Director General, Foreign Economic Cooperation Office, Ministry of Environmental Protection, The People’s Republic of China spoke about China’s resolve to extend and expand efforts to improve urban air quality management, through amongst new air quality standards including PM2.5 air quality standards, which are gradually being rolled out in the coming years. Li Pei invited the international community to participate in China’s efforts to address air quality including the new international cooperation platform on air quality management being established by China. This new platform will promote knowledge sharing with the international community and will promote China’s role in South-South cooperation on air quality management.
Michael Lindfield, Lead Urban Development Specialist, Asian Development Bank and Charles Feinstein, Energy Sector Manager, World Bank reminded participants of the environmental challenges faced by Asia. They cautioned that in striving for economic growth in support of poverty elimination, it is important that the growth achieved will not result in an increase in air pollution and dangerous climate change and thus adding risks to public health and undermining the future sustainability of the region.
Two video messages by Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme and Lena Ek, Minister for the Environment, Sweden representing the Climate and Clean Air Coalition stressed the co-benefits of reducing air pollution, for preventing dangerous climate change. “ When we address the issue of better air quality we not only have the opportunity to do so in a traditional better air quality legislative framework but we also have the opportunity of linking air quality issues to climate change, human health and development benefits in a way that we have in the past not succeeded in doing so.” said Achim Steiner. Lena Ek stated “Many of the initiatives identified to address short-lived climate pollutants are available in the region, are practical and cost effective.”
Christine Loh, the Undersecretary for the Environment, the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, affirmed the government’s commitment to improve air quality in the city. “This administration’s policy initiatives target roadside pollution, emissions from ships, and further deepening of regional co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong”, said Ms Loh. She referred to eye-catching large-scale projects to demonstrate that change is possible as in the case of Seoul, Korea where an elevated highway was taken out to restore a river. “We need our own high profile projects like that.” Said Loh.
Christian Gaebler, Permanent Secretary for the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, Berlin, spoke in his keynote address about the Environmental, or low emission zone introduced in 2008 in Berlin. “Restricting access to the Berlin inner city for old polluting vehicles, together with noise abatement measures, has greatly improved the city’s livability.”, Gaebler said the highlighted case studies of European cities that have transformed themselves into low emission cities in his keynote address. “Air pollution is not the only challenge of urban environment policy,” said Gaebler, and who recommended, “Asian cities with a high number of such old polluting vehicles can consider implementing Environmental Zones “.
Dr. Mukesh Sharma of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India received the 2012 Kong Ha award during the opening of the BAQ 2012 conference for his substantial contribution to Indian air quality management policies through academic research. “Dr. Sharma played a pivotal role in setting tougher air quality standards in India and in enabling decision makers to adopt science-based air quality management policies”, said Mary Jane Ortega, Chairperson of the Clean Air Asia Partnership during the award ceremony.
Participants of BAQ 2012 were called upon not to succumb to adapting to air pollution but to take action in their daily lives and by putting pressure on local and national governments to scale up action on air pollution and better enforce air quality standards.
About BAQ (www.baq2012.org)
The biennial BAQ conference is the leading event on air quality in Asia. Organized for the 7th time, BAQ 2012 brings together over 700 policy and decision makers as well as experts and NGO representatives in Hong Kong to learn, exchange information, and find ways to work together to bring back bluer skies to Asia. The conference covers transport, energy, industry, and climate change, with a particular emphasis on more effective government policies and measures.
BAQ 2012 is co-organized by Clean Air Asia, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It is organized in partnership with the Asian Development
Bank and the World Bank and supported by a wide range of international organizations including the United Nations Environment Program. The conference takes place from December 5 to 7, 2012.
About Clean Air Asia (www.cleanairasia.org)
Clean Air Asia, formerly Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, is the leading regional air quality network in Asia. The organization’s mission is “to promote better air quality and livable cities by translating knowledge to policies and actions that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and other sectors.” Clean Air Asia was established in 2002 and now has offices in Manila, Beijing, and Delhi. It is supported by 8 country networks, and over 230 partnership members.
About the Kong Ha Award
The Kong Ha Award handed out for the third time at BAQ 2012 pays tribute to persons who are responsible for the formulation of air quality management related policies and their day-to-day implementation in Asia. The award was established to honor the memory of the late Kong Ha who
served as CAI-Asia Chairperson from December 2004 to April 2007 and who helped to establish the Better Air Quality Conference tradition in 2001.
For inquiries, contact the BAQ 2012 Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.