Cimatu calls for action vs marine plastic pollution in ASEAN meet

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Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu reminded environment ministers not to forget the equally crucial issue of marine plastic pollution during the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Roundtable Discussion on Clean Air, Health and Climate held in Makati City last July 24-25, 2019

In his Welcome Message, Cimatu said five ASEAN member-states were cited as the biggest sources of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and were accounted to have the highest marine plastic litter concentration.

In 2015, Science magazine listed Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines as among the world’s worst plastic polluters.

Cimatu said there is definitely a need for a strong collaboration and an immediate comprehensive and integrated regional action to address marine plastics given the ASEAN region’s “richness in marine biodiversity aside from being a strategic maritime zone.”

“After all, plastics have carbon footprint, too, and bio-accumulation of microplastics may have impacts to human health,” Cimatu added.

Environment ministers and senior officials of ASEAN member states have committed to strengthen local initiatives to address air pollution and to adopt early and scaled-up solutions to help avoid a 0.6oC temperature increase by 2050. This will aid to improve air quality and prevent premature deaths and crop damages annually.

The commitments are in response to the roundtable discussion’s primary message to highlight the linkages of issues related to air pollution, health and climate. Specifically, the focus was to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons which, aside from adversely affecting health, also contribute to global warming.

In addition, the need for integrated planning on climate change and air pollution was raised to identify the most relevant actions to mitigate both impacts simultaneously.

The discussions concluded with recommendations by ASEAN countries to enhance respective nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement to include mitigation of SLCPs, integration of air pollution and climate change mitigation, and alignment of climate change and air pollution policies by 2030.

The improvement of the NDCs also includes the operationalization of appropriate and country-relevant measures on air quality cited in the article “Report on Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based Solutions” which identifies 25 clean air measures that can positively impact human health, crop yields, climate change and socio-economic development,

The commitments reached in the roundtable discussion shall be presented in the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23, 2019 in New York City and to the High-Level Officials’ Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Health and Environment on September 27-28, 2019.

The Philippines through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) co-hosted the ASEAN meet that brought together experts, scientists and leaders from and beyond the ASEAN region to share local initiatives and insights toward global climate action, clean air and health. (DENR)

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