Air pollution is the largest environmental health hazard in Asia and the Pacific. Currently, 92% of Asia-Pacific’s population – around 4 billion people – are exposed to unhealthy or toxic levels of air pollution. Each year, about 4 million people in Asia-Pacific (7 million people worldwide) die prematurely from air pollution related diseases. Thus, it is imperative and a big challenge to effectively mitigate air pollution in Asia Pacific.
On October 30, 2018, a report titled “Air pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based solutions” was released by the United Nations Environment Programme at the World Health Organisation’s first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva. This report is the first assessment of the air pollution outlook in Asia-Pacific. Taking the region’s considerable diversity into account, the report details 25 policy and technological measures to tackle air pollution, and groups these measures into three categories:
The first category is conventional emission controls focusing on emissions that lead to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The second is next-stage air-quality measures for reducing emissions that lead to the formation of PM2.5. The third is measures contributing to development priority goals with benefits for air quality.
In order to facilitate a better understanding, these measures can be further classified into two categories according to their effects on PM2.5: direct measures and indirect measures. All items in each category are presented in the following:
Direct measures to tackle air pollution
- Introduce post-combustion controls at power stations and in large-scale industries
- Advance emissions standards in industrial process (e.g., iron/steel plants, cement factories)
- Strengthen all emissions standards for road vehicles
- Enforce mandatory inspection and maintenance of diesel vehicles
- Suppress construction and road dust; increase green areas
- Strictly enforce bans on open burning of household waste
- Strictly enforce bans on open burning of agricultural residues
- Introduce emissions standards for brick kilns
- Foster extended use of wind, solar and hydro power for electricity generation
- Introduce ambitious energy efficiency standards for industry
- Use clean fuels in cities and advanced stoves in rural areas for cooking an heating
- Improve the energy efficiency of household appliances
- Promote the use of electric vehicles
- Encourage a shift from private passenger vehicles to public transport
- Introduce advanced standards for oil and gas production and delivery
- Require low-sulphur fuels for international shipping
Indirect measures for improving air quality
- Encourage centralized waste collection with source separation and treatment
- Introduce well-managed two-stage treatment of wastewater
- Introduce standards for Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant replacement
- Introduce low-solvent paints for industrial and do-it-yourself applications
- Prevent forest and peatland fires
- Introduce covered storage and efficient application of manures
- Establish efficient application of nitrogen fertilizer
- Encourage intermittent aeration of continuously flooded paddies
- Encourage pre-mining recovery of coal mine gas
According to the UN report, effectively implementing all of the 25 measures would result in a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide and a 45% reduction in methane emissions, reducing premature mortality in the region by one third, and helping avoid about 2 million premature deaths from indoor air pollution.
Practically, these measures are applicable not only in Asia, but also in other areas where air pollution is becoming poor.