Asia-Pacific Clean Air Partnership Launched to Fight Global Air Pollution

The Cities Clean Air Partnership, the first major clean air certification and partnership program to encourage air quality protection in cities across the Asia-Pacific region, was launched today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration, Clean Air Asia, and the Bay Area and South Coast Air Districts.

“The EPA, California, and cities from L.A. to Fresno have decades of experience in reducing harmful air pollution,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “But air pollution is still causing more than 3.7 million deaths a year and costing the global economy over $3.5 trillion a year in sickness and premature deaths. This partnership is taking a huge step forward to reduce global air pollution and achieve more livable, healthier cities for all.”

“The Cities Clean Air Partnership will greatly accelerate air quality improvement in Asian cities and Taiwan is proud to help initiate this program with the U.S. EPA,” said Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration Minister Kuo-Yen Wei. “We are looking forward to forming ties with other city partners in Asia under this program and the International Environmental Partnership framework.”

The Cities Clean Air Partnership aims to strengthen air quality management in Asian cities, encourage progress, and contribute to reducing the health impacts of air pollution and climate change in Asia. The program includes: a certification and scoring system that encourages a city to take clean air actions by earning certifications as it achieves milestones and progresses towards better air quality; empowering cities through training, financial incentives and other partnership and collaboration support; and fostering cooperation and peer-to-peer learning among cities through a cities partnering program.

With today’s Cities Clean Air Partnership launch, cities in California and around the U.S. will be able to collaborate with cities in the Asia-Pacific to share experiences and innovations to reduce and control air pollution. Combating air pollution and growing clean energy economies are major goals of EPA’s collaboration with its partners in the Asia-Pacific. EPA has worked for many years with environmental agencies, non-profits and industry in Asia to improve prevention and control of emissions of particulate matter and other air pollutants.

Initial support to launch the Cities Clean Air Partnership began with a grant to Clean Air Asia from the International Environmental Partnership, a $5 million fund established to advance global environmental collaborations. Clean Air Asia, a non-governmental organization based in the Philippines working on air quality issues in Asia, is developing the partnership, which will drive progress for participating cities, helping them make targeted decisions about the best way to deploy resources to improve air quality.

“We can only significantly reduce the problem of air pollution through meaningful and effective partnerships among cities, which is the driving principle of this partnership,” said Clean Air Asia Executive Director Bjarne Pedersen. “This is a landmark initiative towards air pollution prevention and control in Asia. We are looking forward to both delivering real impacts under this pioneering initiative as well as bringing more partners onboard.”

We are proud of the South Coast Air District’s long history of partnership and collaboration with Taiwan on air pollution prevention,” said South Coast Air District Deputy Executive Officer Elaine Chang. “We are looking forward to expanding this cooperation and sharing our experiences with other Asia-Pacific partners.”

“Public-private partnerships have proven time and again, that investments in clean air programs can provide large public health dividends,” said Bay Area Air District Executive Officer Jack Broadbent. “With over $300 million committed over the past several years to reduce Port related diesel pollution, investments in cities for greenhouse gas reduction programs, community grants that fund small scale projects which offer real results, we recognize the benefits of these partnerships to successfully tackle our clean air challenges.”

Small particulate matter is considered to be among the worst air pollutants from a health perspective and is linked to cardiovascular illness, asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and even death. In 2008, the annual average small particulate matter levels in outdoor air in more than 200 Asian cities was nearly five times higher than World Health Organization air quality guidelines, according to a Clean Air Asia survey.

This fall, the Cities Clean Air Partnership program will be further expanded at the biennial Better Air Quality conference in Sri Lanka, the largest gathering of air quality officials and experts in the Asia-Pacific.

U.S. EPA and Taiwan EPA collaborate regionally under the auspices of the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.