ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution

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The business district of Kuala Lumpur in the evening of September 29, 2006. Menara Kuala Lumpur was barely visible.
Singapore's Downtown Core on 7 October 2006, when it was affected by forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Satellite photograph of the 2006 haze above Borneo
Severe haze affecting Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 2005

The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is a legally binding environmental agreement signed in 2002 by all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. [1] The Agreement recognises that transboundary haze pollution which result from land and/or forest fires should be mitigated through concerted national efforts and international cooperation.

The agreement is a reaction to an environmental crisis that hit Southeast Asia in the late 1990s. The crisis was mainly caused by land clearing for agricultural uses via open burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Satellite images confirmed the presence of hot spots throughout Kalimantan/Borneo, Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and several other places, with an estimated 45,000 square kilometers of forest and land burnt.[2] Malaysia, Singapore and to a certain extent, Thailand and Brunei were particularly badly affected.

From Sumatra in Indonesia, monsoon winds blew the smoke eastward, creating negative environmental effects (externalities) on other Southeast Asian nations. Thick haze covered much of Southeast Asia for weeks and caused noticeable and widespread human health problems. The haze is currently a nearly annual occurrence, coinciding with the dry season.[3]

As of June 2013, all the ASEAN countries, except Indonesia, have ratified the agreement.[4] However Indonesia hopes to ratify the haze agreement by 2015.[5]

Parties to the agreement[edit]

Member State Date of Ratification/Approval Date of Deposit of
Instrument of Ratification/Approval
with the Secretary-General of ASEAN
 Malaysia December 3, 2002 February 18, 2003
 Singapore January 13, 2003 January 2003
 Brunei February 27, 2003 April 23, 2003
 Myanmar March 5, 2003 March 17, 2003
 Vietnam March 24, 2003 May 29, 2003
 Thailand September 10, 2003 September 26, 2003
 Laos December 19, 2004 July 13, 2005
 Cambodia April 24, 2006 November 9, 2006
 Philippines February 1, 2010 March 4, 2010
 Indonesia

Negotiation history[edit]

The agreement was established in 2002, though has some foundation in a 1990 agreement made among ASEAN Ministers of Environment which called for efforts leading to the harmonization of transboundary pollution prevention and abatement practices.[6]

The treaty also builds on the 1995 ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution and the 1997 Regional Haze Action Plan.[7] This treaty is an attempt to bring the action plan into function.

Institutional structure[edit]

The agreement is managed by the Ministers of Environment and other representatives from the respective ASEAN countries. Meetings are coordinated under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council (ASCC), one of three councils, subsidiary to the ASEAN summit and its chair.[8]

Activities[edit]

The treaty calls for haze to be mitigated through concerted national efforts and intensified regional and international co-operation in the context of sustainable development. This is to be done through monitoring and prevention activities.[9]

Protocols[edit]

The official procedure or system of rules that informs this agreement is the ‘ASEAN Way’ set of region norms and codes of diplomatic conduct characterized by principles of non-interference, consultation, consensus, quiet diplomacy, symbolism, and organizational minimalism.[10]

Achievements[edit]

In October 2013 ASEAN leaders approved a joint haze monitoring system at a cost of $100,000 USD.[11] Additionally, Singapore has offered to start working directly with Indonesian farmers to encourage sustainable practices and minimize the problem over time by "tackling the haze issue at its root". Singapore has worked with farmers in this way in Indonesia's Jambi province in the past.[12]

Shortcomings[edit]

Indonesia as the primary haze producing party to the problem[13] is the only ASEAN country, yet to ratify the agreement.[14] Simultaneously the government of Indonesia may just lack the capacity to enforce its laws against slash and burn farming.

The treaty failed to prevent the annual return of the haze between 2004 and 2010, and again in 2013. Recently Indonesia has been placed as the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter with 75% of its emissions stemming from deforestation.[15]

Key debates in literature and policy community[edit]

The ‘haze treaty’ is accused of being vague and lacking enforcement mechanisms or strong instruments for dispute-resolution.[16] However, ASEAN has clearly tried to depart from its institutional culture in attempt to achieve deeper cooperation on this issue. This is evident in that this is a legally binding treaty, something ASEAN has vehemently opposed in the past.[17]

The treaty is ill-served by the ASEAN style of regional engagement which adamantly protects national sovereignty. The result is that states are compelled to act in their own self-interest rather than regional interests. Additionally, the close relationships between key economic actors and political elites have meant maintenance of the status quo.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Extracted October 12, 2006
  2. ^ Global Fire Monitoring Center. The 1997-98 Air Pollution Episode in Southeast Asia Generated by Vegetation Fires in Indonesia. Extracted February 7, 2014
  3. ^ Jakarta Globe. The 1997-98 Riau Haze Back Again as Dry Season Sets In. Extracted February 7, 2014
  4. ^ Wall Street Journal.The Largest Southeast Asian Nation Would Be the Last to Sign a Cross-Border Air Pollution Deal. Extracted February 3, 2014
  5. ^ Jakarta Globe.Indonesia Set to Ratify Haze Treaty by Early 2014. Extracted February 7, 2014
  6. ^ ASEAN Haze Action Online. (p.1) Agreement Text. Extracted February 7, 2014
  7. ^ ASEAN Haze Action Online. (p.1) Agreement Text. Extracted February 7, 2014
  8. ^ Asia One News. Chan Chun Sing to attend Asean Socio-Cultural Community council meeting. Extracted February 7, 2014
  9. ^ ASEAN Haze Action Online. (p.1) Agreement Text. Extracted February 7, 2014
  10. ^ Nguitragool, Paruedee. "Negotiating the Haze Treaty: Rationality and Institutions in the Negotiations for the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (2002)." Asian Survey, 2011: 356-378. 356.
  11. ^ Strait Times. Asean leaders approve haze monitoring system. Extracted February 7, 2014
  12. ^ Strait Times. Singapore willing to work with Indonesia, Malaysia to tackle causes of haze. Extracted February 7, 2014
  13. ^ Global Fire Monitoring Center. The 1997-98 Air Pollution Episode in Southeast Asia Generated by Vegetation Fires in Indonesia. Extracted February 7, 2014
  14. ^ Wall Street Journal.The Largest Southeast Asian Nation Would Be the Last to Sign a Cross-Border Air Pollution Deal. Extracted February 3, 2014
  15. ^ Time World. The Southeast Asian Haze Is Back and Worse May Follow. Extracted February 7, 2014
  16. ^ Nguitragool, Paruedee. "Negotiating the Haze Treaty: Rationality and Institutions in the Negotiations for the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (2002)." Asian Survey, 2011: 356-378. 357.
  17. ^ Nguitragool, Paruedee. "Negotiating the Haze Treaty: Rationality and Institutions in the Negotiations for the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (2002)." Asian Survey, 2011: 356-378. 358.
  18. ^ Varkkey, Helena Muhamad. "The Asean Way and Haze Mitigation Efforts." Journal of International Studies, 2012: 1823-691X. 77.

External links[edit]