The global transboundary haze problem refers to the widespread issue of air pollution and smog travelling across national borders and affecting multiple countries and regions, including Southeast Asia. Caused by human-induced forest fires, and agricultural practices and industrial activities that release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, haze poses significant health risks, and results in ecological damage and economic losses for affected countries. Its transboundary nature necessitates collaborative efforts and international cooperation to address the problem effectively.
In the ASEAN region, haze is primarily from land clearing and peatland fires. ASEAN has taken several measures to tackle the transboundary haze problem and promote regional cooperation in addressing the issue. ASEAN member states are home to 40% of the world’s tropical peatlands,1 among the most biologically diverse peatland ecosystems on Earth, and store large amounts of carbon.2,3 Sustainable management of peatlands will play a large role in tackling haze in the region. Collaborative efforts have included establishment of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) in 2002, and setting up the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control (ACC THPC) to help manage the impacts of land and/or forest fires and associated haze pollution. These initiatives aim to promote sustainable land management practices, improve firefighting capabilities, enhance regional cooperation to mitigate the transboundary haze problem, and protect the environment and public health in the region.
Further, given the El Niño development, predictions for 2023 indicate extreme weather events around the globe, including a rise in global temperature exceeding 1.5°C, and increased risk of heatwaves, droughts and fires. Specifically for ASEAN member states and the region’s peatlands, predictions indicate major drought impacts, which could lead to water shortages, large-scale fires and transboundary haze pollution. This makes taking preventive measures and ensuring the implementation of policies/programmes both crucial and urgent.
ASEAN is strategically positioned to contribute actively to peatland management, haze pollution management and climate change mitigation efforts through its regional policies such as the AATHP, ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS), and Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation Towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation (ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap).
With the finalization of the new APMS and new ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap, member states will need to shift their focus to implementation and reporting progress on these policies. For many goals and targets identified in the APMS and Roadmap, member states will already be implementing national policies and programmes for peatlands and fire management. This provides an opportunity for the region and ASEAN member states to learn from each other and build on existing efforts. The Capacity Development Need and Gap Analysis (CDNGA)4 reported that nine member states identified peer learning and knowledge sharing on governance, policies and programmes for the implementation of national plans, the APMS and the ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap as priorities for capacity building topics.
- Exchange experiences and lessons learned between ASEAN member states on existing national policies, programmes, initiatives and systems that support national actions to implement the Roadmap;
- Discuss opportunities and ways forward for implementation of the new ASEAN Haze-Free Roadmap, specifically related to forming partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration;
- Brainstorm on the next steps for ASEAN and member states to further enhance existing policies that align with the Roadmap, or develop new ones.
The policy dialogue will focus on three areas relating to the Roadmap: (1) reduction of haze from land/forest fires to achieve national air quality targets; (2) reduction of number of alert level 2 hotspots; and (3) reduction of “burned area” at regional and subregional levels.
This event is by invitation only.