The 2014 Seoul International Forum on Air Quality Improvement, an arena for discussion among Seoul and 14 major Northeast Asian cities on the role of the city in air quality improvement and methods for cooperation, was held on September 24 and 25. The 14 cities and areas represented at this forum were: Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, and Incheon (Korea); Beijing, Shandong Province, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sichuan Province, Chengdu, and Zhejiang Province (China); Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Kitakyushu (Japan); and Ulan Bator (Mongolia).
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is investing in various self-directed efforts to improve the city’s air quality, including converting city buses from diesel to CNG and attaching exhaust reduction devices to diesel vehicles. However, as at least 30 to 50 percent of ultrafine dust pollution is created by neighboring Northeast Asian countries, this year’s forum focused on finding ways for major Northeast Asian cities to cooperate on achieving a revolutionary improvement in air quality in the region.
As Northeast Asia has high levels of air pollution, due to its high population concentrations and many factory districts, and is significantly influenced by yellow dust created by wind storms, the formation of an inter-city air quality improvement network is vital. Also, due to the long distances that air pollutants can travel, moving freely across national borders and resulting in the limited effectiveness of air pollution reduction policies carried out by only certain cities, cooperation and joint responses with neighboring countries and/or cities is necessary.
While creating a general atmosphere of acknowledgement of the need for air quality improvement by Northeast Asian cities, the Seoul Metropolitan Government made various proposals for joint solutions, including the formation of a secretariat and/or consultative body, hosting of a regularly-held forum, and the establishment of a climate change fund.
At the expert forum, Seoul City gave a presentation on concrete ways in which it has improved the city’s air quality over the years, such as the change from diesel to CNG buses and the six-day system for car owners. It revealed that as a result of such policies, the ultrafine dust concentration in Seoul in 2012 (41㎍/㎥) was the lowest ever recorded since the 1995 reading (78㎍/㎥).
Seoul City is currently taking several steps to improve air quality, including washing roads with water by operating year-round road dust absorption cleaning vehicles, changing from diesel buses and cleaning vehicles to CNG, attaching exhaust reduction devices to diesel cars, improving LPG engines, and operating the six-day system for privately-owned vehicles (vehicle cannot be used for one day of the week).
Seoul City is also making more concerted efforts to improve air quality by carrying out reduction policies for ultrafine dust (PM2.5), which is particularly harmful to human health, in addition to the existing policies on fine dust (PM10). By establishing the PM2.5 consumer alert system on October 1, 2013, Seoul has been able to provide improved data on air quality to its citizens.
Seoul City signed MOUs regarding cooperation on air quality improvement with Ulan Bator (February 2014) and Shandong Province (June 2014). On September 26, it also signed an MOU with Hong Kong.