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12.2.5 International cooperation


No one can live without air, and its quality is indispensable. However, 90 per cent of the global population is now forced to live with unhealthy air, particularly in Asia and Africa (WHO 2018). Air pollution and PBTs are of particular concern, as they travel locally, internationally, regionally and globally. International cooperation plays an important role when air pollution crosses borders or needs to be addressed across borders.


International cooperation can take many forms, ranging from formal to informal, bilateral to multilateral diplomacy. Governments are one of the key actors to align their actions―negotiating and concluding multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in a tangled web of national interests, providing international aid, conducting capacity-building/technical assistance under or beyond the agreement, monitoring and modelling air pollution to improve scientific knowledge with help from a community of experts, sharing information with the public, raising awareness and engaging in voluntary efforts for further cooperation to reduce air pollution. Formal training, technology demonstration, and cooperative research and assessment activities provide more effective knowledge-sharing and capacity-building opportunities. These activities may have the most significant long-term influence on environmental outcomes, but their immediate impact is difficult to quantify. Local governments are important actors to implement national environmental policies. Cooperation from business and industry is crucial to increase the effectiveness of the policies. Considerable progress on policy cooperation, emissions control and reporting, and ecosystem recovery has been achieved under the eight legally binding CLRTAP Protocols. The application of the effects-oriented critical load concept with regional cost minimization of science- based mitigation measures, technical as well as structural, has offered a sophisticated but successful way forward for participating countries.


A relatively recent approach to international cooperation on air-related issues has been the development of public– private initiatives, such as the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (see Section 12.2.3), the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition for the Reduction of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). These initiatives bring together interested national governments, intergovernmental organizations, private- sector companies, civil society organizations and philanthropic foundations to advance specific pollution mitigation efforts. For example, CCAC was founded in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the governments of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the United States, to catalyse action to decrease emissions of black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons. CCAC now has more than 100 state and non-state partner organizations participating in 11 different initiatives. This could contribute to cleaner fuels and technologies in the homes of 3 billion vulnerable people suffering from household air pollution (Apte and Salvi et al. 2016).


International financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund play major roles in project funding. Financial assistance and cooperative implementation of control measures can have a clear and demonstrable effect on decreasing emissions in the short term, but the long-term impacts may be much larger if the control measures are replicated.


Regional organizations can function in two ways. One, like the EU, is taking the leading role in negotiations as a global actor and an increasing role in environmental politics, while the other, like the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), is to function as an international forum. Both provide opportunities to set regional agendas, learn new knowledge and perspectives, share information and discuss common issues. Treaty secretariats could influence the negotiation process among States under the accords. Like-minded groups, alliances and friends of the Chairs could also lead, mediate or slow down negotiations. Some of these cooperation processes could also be activated by environmental NGOs, green parties and citizens as well as international organizations such as WHO, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and UNEP, helping to set the environmental agenda, framing environmental issues or providing resources for international cooperation.


As introduced in Section 5.5, global MEAs which have linkages to air pollution are those targeting climate change (UNFCCC), stratospheric ozone depletion (Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol), mercury (Minamata Convention) and persistent organic pollutants (Stockholm Convention). Although there is no global convention on air pollution, several regional MEAs and bilateral agreements exist. One of the oldest regional MEAs is the 1979 CLRTAP negotiated under UNECE. Considerable progress on policy cooperation, monitoring and modelling, emissions control and reporting, and ecosystems recovery has been achieved under the eight legally binding CLRTAP Protocols.


It is difficult to evaluate the impact of international agreements. Compliance with legal commitments can be evaluated, but it is not always clear that emission decreases that occur are a result of an international agreement or if they would have occurred in the absence of the agreement. Furthermore, perfect compliance may be an indication of unambitious targets that require little more than business as usual efforts.


None of the MEAs identified above have an effective international enforcement mechanism. Depending on a country’s own laws, a national government may be taken to court in its own country for not abiding by its international treaties. However, this kind of action is rare, and ensuring compliance with international commitments mostly relies on diplomatic or peer pressure.


The following case study explores the progress made under the regional agreement on transboundary haze negotiated under ASEAN in 2002. This case provides valuable lessons on the challenges of international cooperation.


12


Air Policy


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