Turning Asian Cities Into Livable Cities Emphasized During BAQ

Asian cities should follow the example of Singapore to make their cities more livable. “Our experience here in Singapore has been that with foresight, careful planning and good execution, it is indeed possible to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection,” said Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Environment Minister of Singapore today during his Welcome Address at the Better Air Quality (BAQ) conference which opened at Suntec Singapore. “Seeing how climate change and air pollution knows no boundaries, we should actively engage our regional partners in these issues,” he added.

The BAQ Conference, organized by the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia), kicked off today with 600 participants from 35 countries around the world. The theme “Air Quality in a Changing Climate” reflects the different urban development model we need to adopt in the face of 500 million Asians moving to cities in the next decades. Sophie Punte, Executive Director of the CAI-Asia Center explained that “An important reason for holding BAQ in Singapore this time is that Singapore presents so many best practice examples of how a city can grow its economy while at the same time preserving blue skies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Keynote Address was delivered by the Transport Commissioner from New York, Janette Sadik-Khan, who is transforming New York to a city where people, not cars, come first. “The local government wanted the people to have high-quality urban experience through PlaNYC and gave emphasis to prioritizing sustainable mobility in streets and treating these streets as valuable public spaces. When we proposed plans to put more priority to pedestrians and created a green Broadway, there was no heavy infrastructure involved,” she explained, “You can do a lot of transformation of urban streets and encourage pedestrianization with just paint cans and planters,” she added. New Yorkers surveyed agreed the Times Square has improved dramatically over the last year.

Some measures New York has taken under their PlaNYC include the first “Select Bus Servie” routes for NYC, the NYC Plaza Program, the creation of Broadway Boulevard in midtown Manhattan, the addition of 200 miles of on-street bike lanes, car-free summer streets, and weekend pedestrian walks.

All the speakers touched on the link between air pollution and climate change, as air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions come from similar sources and thus have overlapping solutions. Both John Roome, Sector Director from World Bank and Jitendra Shah, Advisor with ADB, reiterated the need to integrate air pollution and climate change issues into urban development projects, and are willing to walk the talk by providing broader interest in green growth and green financing across the region.

Robert O’Keefe, Chairman of the CAI-Asia Center, remarked that while climate change is rightly getting more attention from both governments and development agencies, air pollution is still a serious issue in many Asian cities, killing over half a million people a year. “When developing policies and making investment decisions to improve air quality, it is important to consider the exposure of people to air pollution and subsequent health impacts,” he said, adding that 55% of Delhi citizens live within 50 meters from major roads, thus making addressing transport emissions a key part of protecting people’s health.

The role that CAI-Asia and other non-governmental organizations can play in reduction air pollution was exemplified by Ahmad “Puput” Safrudin, winner of the 2010 Kong Ha Award for Excellence in Air Quality Management. He led the public movement to phase out lead from gasoline in Indonesia, which took effect in 2006. “It was an uphill battle through and through but we came out triumphant in the end by collaborating with various stakeholders and implementing creative communication strategies to achieve this milestone achievement of unleaded gasoline in Indonesia.”

An Asian Co-benefits Partnership was also launched by IGES at Suntec Singapore during the opening of BAQ Conference which will be a platform to support the mainstreaming of co-benefits into national development plans and sectoral policies and projects in Asia.

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BAQ 2010 is organized by CAI-Asia in partnership with the National Environment Agency, Land Transport Authority, Singapore Tourism Board, Asian Development Bank and World Bank. The conference will run from 9 to 11 November at Suntec Singapore. Policy makers and practitioners meet at BAQ to network, learn and share experiences. www.baq2010.org

CAI-Asia promotes 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. CAI-Asia is a registered UN Type II Partnership with almost 200 organizational members, eight Country Networks, and the CAI-Asia Center as its secretariat. It was established in 2001 by ADB, the World Bank and USAID as part of a global initiative that also includes Latin America and Sub Saharan Africa. www.cleanairinitiative.org

The award serves as a tribute to persons who are responsible for the formulation of air quality management related policies and their day-to-day implementation in Asia and is handed out during BAQ Conferences. The first Kong Ha Award winner was Mr. Shi Han Min, the Director of Environmental Protection Bureau for Beijing, China, for his exemplary leadership in efforts of Beijing EPB and other stakeholders in Beijing to address air pollution before and during the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, and received the award during the BAQ 2008 Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. 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.

The Asian Co-Benefits Partnership was formed by IGES in with some Asian countries and international organizations such as the ADB, CAI-Asia, Global Atmospheric Pollution Form (GAPF) and UNEP. The Partnership will serve as an informal and interactive platform to improve knowledge management and stakeholder cooperation on co-benefits in Asia. The ultimate goal of the Partnership is to support the mainstreaming of co-benefits into national development plans and sectoral policies and projects. Formal launching program of the Partnership will take place on 9 November (Tuesday), 5.00pm at Meeting Room 307, Suntec Singapore.


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