THE 14th Asean Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (14th AMME) and the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) concluded yesterday with ministers from Asean member states (AMS) responsible for the environment, land, forest fires and haze coming together in agreement on a number of issues.
Regional cooperation on a number of environmental issues — in particular actions taken on environmental sustainability under the Asean Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint – were reviewed, while new initiatives were discussed on the further promotion of environmental cooperation across the region.
The ministers noted the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC)’s weather outlook for the region for the coming months, in particular the prevailing neutral (neither El Nino nor La Nina) conditions forecast to persist for the rest of 2017.
Rainfall for the region is forecast to be normal in the coming months. However, it was also noted that periods of drier weather can still be expected in the southern Asean region between September and early October.
The ministers are urging AMS to remain vigilant, while continuously monitoring and stepping up their haze prevention efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires during periods of drier weather.
The ministers also reaffirmed their commitment through concerted national efforts and regional cooperation to fully and effectively implement the AATHP, and the roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, to achieve a Haze-Free Asean by 2020.
They welcomed various initiatives and actions undertaken by the AMS, which underscored the importance of stepping up technical cooperation to effectively implement the AATHP and the Roadmap in their entirety, to increase the preparedness while mitigating the risks to human health and the environment caused by land and forest fires, or haze pollution.
The ministers agreed to conduct a mid-term review of the implementation of the roadmap at the next meeting, to take stock of the progress and sustained momentum in ensuring demonstrable improvements to achieve the vision of a haze-free Asean by 2020.
The ministers noted the endorsement of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region (MSC Mekong) of the Chiang Rai 2017 Plan of Action, to identify a common set of priorities for the implementation of the roadmap, while encouragimg further collaboration among MSC Mekong countries and synergies with other initiatives under the AATHP.
Full support was extended to Indonesia in hosting the ACC THPC, and noted with appreciation, the on-going consultative process towards the finalisation of the Establishment Agreement and Host Country Agreement of the ACC THPC.
The ministers expressed the wish to see a faster and more effective implementation of all aspects of the AATHP, once the ACC THPC becomes operational.
The ministers noted the development of the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA), supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
They expressed their appreciation for the support and interest as stated by the Dialogue Partners and other external parties, and looked forward to the continued support of the implementation of the programmes/projects under the Asean Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems (APSMPE) of 2014-2020.
The ministers also noted the report on the Study on the Economic, Health and Social Impact of Haze in 2015 on the Asean Region.
The ministers welcomed the endorsement of the modality for sharing hotspot information among MSC countries as recommended by the 7th Meeting of the MSC Technical Task Force (MTTF). They also noted that the information-sharing mechanism has been operationalised during the current dry season.
The ministers noted that the Asean Joint Declaration on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes Management was conveyed at the High Level Segment of the 2017 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties of Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions on May 4-5.
To better facilitate regional cooperation on environment, in line with the Asean Community Vision of 2025, the ministers adopted the updated Terms of Reference of Asean Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN) and its Working Groups. They look forward to the finalisation of the Asean Strategic Plan on Environment (ASPEN) 2016-2025, which consists of action plans for Asean’s strategic priorities on environment.
The ASPEN will serve as a comprehensive guide for Asean cooperation on environment for the period of 2016 to 2025.
The ministers also adopted the Asean-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan 2016-2020, and the Asean-UN Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change. On the occasion of the 50th Golden Anniversary of Asean, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to environmental protection and sustainable development with the launching of the 5th Asean State of Environment Report, while congratulating 10 outstanding individuals from all AMS who had been recognised and awarded as Asean Biodiversity Heroes on August 7 in Manila, for significant contributions to biodiversity conservation and advocacy efforts in their respective countries within the Asean region.
The ministers also supported other planned activities in light of the anniversary celebrations, including the publication of the Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2, the Asean Conference on Marine Debris and the EAS Mangrove Planting Day.
Following the endorsement of the Bai Tu Long National Park as the 38th Asean Heritage Park in 2016, the ministers endorsed the nomination of the Kepulauan Seribu National Park and the Wakatobi National Park as the 39th and 40th Asean Heritage Parks, respectively, which add to Asean’s collective efforts in raising awareness, protection and conservation of the regional network of national protected areas for the benefit of current and future generations.