Air pollution is now high on the policy agenda in East Asia. For example, the governments of China, Japan, and South Korea recently agreed to strengthen cooperation on air pollution at the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting (TEMM) among the three countries in May 2013 after recent severe air pollution episodes in China attracted global attention. While this cooperation could take many forms, one possible element could be to adopt a multi-pollutant multi-effect (MPME) approach, which plays an important role in the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). It may be desirable to employ such an approach in East Asia, at the national as well as regional levels, in order to address the region’s increasingly complex air pollution problems, particularly the growing importance of secondary pollutants such as PM and ozone. However, few studies have examined the feasibility of applying the approach in East Asia. The MPME approach has various elements, which this paper aims to clarify, focusing especially on the multi-pollutant aspect. Three case studies – China, Japan, and South Korea – are surveyed to assess the extent to which they are already using some of these elements in order to help to assess the potential for adopting MPME in the region.
This research addresses questions about the MPME approach regarding: (1) the main components, (2) the extent case study countries already pursuing some elements (focusing on the multi-pollutant aspect), (3) capacity, institutions or administrative mechanisms that are necessary for implementation, and (4) the potential to promote the MPME approach through international cooperation. China, Japan, and South Korea were chosen as cases because the air pollution issue and related international cooperation are particularly high on the policy agenda there, and the countries have different levels of development, geographic, and pollution characteristics. The policy survey was conducted using various primary and secondary sources including interviews.
3. Results and discussion
The survey found a variety of conceptions of the MPME approach, and the major elements among them include an emphasis on secondary pollutants, consideration of interactions between secondary pollutants, consideration of effects, use of a risk-based approach, and the direct or indirect use of scientific analysis in setting the policy. Based on these components, a four-stage classification system was developed to illustrate the transition from a single-pollutant approach to a multi-pollutant approach: (I) managing one primary pollutant, (II) managing complex secondary pollutants through one primary pollutant, (III) managing one secondary pollutant through multiple primary pollutants, and (IV) managing multiple secondary pollutants and toxicants to address multiple effects.
Japan, after considerable success with Stage I, shifted in recent years to somewhere between Stages II and IV, and is now moving towards Stage IV. For implementation, the experience from the VOC reduction scheme suggests that further scientific research is needed on the formation mechanism of the secondary pollutants. China has had various policies regulating various different pollutants, but these measures fell short of an integrated multi-pollutant strategy, indicating co-existence of various Stage I policies. However, the “co-control” concept mentioned in the Twelfth Five Year Plan has the potential to lead to more advanced stages. South Korea has addressed secondary pollutants from 1990's especially around Seoul. For example, a special measure for Seoul, the Capital Region Clean Air Initiative (2002), which included reduction targets and strategies for precursors of PM10 and NO2, may be classified under Stage IV.
Some elements of the multi-pollutant approach are already being implemented to varying extents in the case study countries, and their air pollution policies are continuing to evolve in this direction. Also, all of the case study countries face common challenges in further implementing the MPME approach, including the further development of scientific, administrative, and implementation capacity, although each of these challenges are experienced somewhat differently in each country. Therefore, it can be concluded that the further development of the MPME approach is desirable, and it is a feasible focus for expanded international cooperation on air pollution among these countries, since they are already in the process of incorporating it into their domestic policies. International cooperation could focus on developing common or complementary approaches, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. Now that the TEMM countries agreed to further cooperate on air pollution, joint promotion of the MPME approach could be a focus, beginning by establishing a common understanding of the different components and stages of MPME, and the current status and goals of each country.