Key Takeaways from BAQ 2023

by CCAC Secretariat - 20 November, 2023
The Better Air Quality conference focuses on climate and clean air action in the Asia-Pacific region.

In mid-November CCAC Partner Clean Air Asia hosted the Better Air Quality (BAQ) conference in Manila, the Philipines. BAQ serves as an important summit for the Asia-Pacific region, where nearly 2.3 billion people are exposed to severe health because of air pollution. 

Although almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, less than 1% of international development funding is committed to reducing air pollution.
The livelihoods of many in the region are also vulnerable to climate change in high-risk sectors like agriculture and fisheries.  

The 3-day BAQ sought to remind all participants that tackling air pollution requires collective efforts, across borders, sectors and, disciplines for a cleaner, healthier future. BAQ also provided a platform for participants to share knowledge, engage in practical discussions, and advance global and regional initiatives. Conclusions from BAQ will feed into the COP28 where a day will be devoted to health.

With over 700 delegates from 39 countries committed to improving air quality, the event featured speakers from a wide range of organisations, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), CCAC, C40, World Health Organisation, as well as representatives from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Philippines and Thailand.

In addition to dedicated sessions addressing the main air pollution sources in Asia – Urban Development and Transportation, Industry and Energy, Agriculture, Waste and Household Energy – Bruno Carrasco, Director General, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) gave a keynote speech in which he highlighted the substantial economic toll air pollution has on the nations in this region. 

He emphasised that solutions need action across all sectors and that every one of us has a crucial role to play. Collaborative initiatives such as the synergy between clean energy and transport have the potential to make a substantial impact on enhancing air quality and safeguarding public health.

BAQ also hosted a video from David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment on taking action against air pollution to protect human rights. The UN General Assembly has declared access to a clean and healthy environment as a universal human right. However, despite the right to clean air being in the laws of 161 countries, many are failing to protect the health of their citizens. BAQ not only stressed the importance of action from the private sector and national governments, but also from regional and municipal governments.  

This year’s BAQ also saw Clean Air Asia announce the launch of a new publication: Live & Breathe Asia: Transforming lives through clean air and climate action. This report showcases the tangible human impact of Clean Air Asia's initiatives since its founding.  

Sean Maguire, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Clean Air Fund gave a keynote speech on state of global funding on air quality report 2023, where he highlighted critical gaps in climate finance, particularly in addressing air pollution control and monitoring. He emphasized the skewed geographical distribution of funding, predominantly favouring certain regions like Asia, notably the PRC, while neglecting areas such as Africa and Latin America.  

Maguire highlighted that current solutions include increased commitments from development funders, collaboration with governments to stimulate demand, and the necessity for innovative finance approaches. Sean highlighted the leadership role of financial institutions in signalling the importance of tackling air pollution, urging governments to take significant action and seek financial support for air quality initiatives.  

Martina Otto, head of the CCAC Secretariat reminded attendees that CCAC  regional assessments for Asia and the Pacific had already been completed and identified 25 priority measures, across transport, energy, agriculture and waste.

Dr Bindu Lohani, Chair of Clean Air Asia, concluded the 11th Better Air Quality Conference by emphasising the integral link between air pollution, climate change, and human health.  He highlighted that air quality is vital in addressing the climate crisis and advocated for an airshed approach in combating pollution because the dispersion of pollutants is greatly influenced by airsheds, which are shaped by geographical features like mountains and valleys 

He concluded by stressing the tangible impact of our actions on communities and urged unity in achieving a cleaner environment, healthier planet, and brighter future for Asia-Pacific's 2.3 billion people affected by toxic air and climate change.

“In our collective vision, a future emerges where clean and healthy air is not a privilege but a universal right. Our commitment remains steadfast—ongoing collaboration, relentless knowledge sharing, and collective efforts. All these will guide us toward achieving clean air for health and a stable climate for all,” said Lohani. 

He concluded by stressing the tangible impact of our actions on communities and urged unity in achieving a cleaner environment, healthier planet, and brighter future for Asia-Pacific's 2.3 billion people affected by toxic air and climate change.

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