Brunei: Southern ASEAN braces for more hotspots

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC’s) review and outlook of the weather and smoke haze situation for the entire region has stated that major climate centres forecast a 70 per cent chance of weak El Nino conditions developing toward the end of the year, while current conditions remained neutral (neither El Nino nor La Nina). 

In terms of weather outlook, the onset of the Northeast Monsoon in the coming months is expected bring a transition to the traditional dry season in the northern ASEAN region, and conversely a transition to the traditional rainy season in the southern ASEAN region.

Rainfall is expected to be below-normal and near-normal for the northern and southern ASEAN regions respectively, and temperature is forecast to be above-normal across the region. A gradual increase in hotspot activities can be expected in the northern ASEAN region, with the transition to the dry season.

In the southern ASEAN region, sporadic increases in hotspot activities can still be expected during dry periods in the coming weeks. With the onset of the traditional rainy season in November 2018, an increase in shower activities are expected to help keep hotspot activities

The updates on the weather forecast and transboundary haze pollution from ASMC were highlighted at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-14) to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) on Friday in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. It was attended by the ministers responsible for the environment, land, forest fires and haze from ASEAN member states (AMS), including Brunei Darussalam, which was represented by Deputy Minister of Development Haji Marzuke bin Haji Mohsin.

Following the meeting, the ministers reviewed the implementation of the AATHP, and 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.

The ministers commended the various initiatives and actions undertaken by the AMS, while noting with appreciation the continuous efforts in strengthening national capabilities and regional cooperation in assessment, prevention, mitigation and management of land and/or forest fires and the resulting haze.

The ministers urged the AMS to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires during periods of drier weather.

The ministers were also updated on the ASMC’s continual efforts to enhance its weather and haze monitoring and forecast capabilities by leveraging on advanced modelling systems and the latest satellite technology. They also noted the initiative by the ASMC on its five-year Regional Capability Building Programme that aims to benefit the AMS through the sharing of technical knowledge and skills in haze monitoring and weather and climate prediction.  

The ministers welcomed the progress made in the second year of the implementation of the Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with means of Implementation. They also looked forward to the mid-term review and evaluation of the implementation of the roadmap which will be presented at the next meeting, with a view to take
stock of the progress and sustain momentum in ensuring demonstrable improvements so as to achieve the vision of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

The ministers welcomed the progress towards the finalisation of the Establishment Agreement and Host Country Agreement of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control (ACC THPC) in Indonesia, and looked forward to its full operationalisation. They recalled the commitment and guidance of the ASEAN Leaders at the 31st ASEAN Summit held on November 31, 2017 in Manila, Philippines, and 32nd ASEAN Summit held on April 28, 2018 in Singapore, on the importance of regional cooperation on transboundary haze pollution control and urged the parties to further intensify efforts to bring the negotiations to conclusion.

The ministers also noted with satisfaction the significant progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS 2006-2020) through the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems (APSMPE 2014-2020), and expressed appreciation for the support from ASEAN dialogue and development partners. They recalled the Financing Agreement for the ASEAN-EU Programme on Sustainable Use of  Peatland
and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) which was signed on December 27, 2016 with an indicative budget of EUR24.5 million for the duration of 60 months; and looked forward to the programme implementation in 2018.

The ministers also looked forward to the finalisation and signing of Large Grant Agreement of the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA), a programme supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), amounting USD3.5  million for a duration of 60 months. They also reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate the implementation of programmes/projects under APSMPE 2014-2020 through ASEAN mechanisms, enhanced national level efforts and multi-stakeholder partnership.

The ministers also supported the second review of APMS to be undertaken by the ASEAN Task Force on Peatlands, while welcoming the findings from the Study on the Economic, Health and Social Impact of Haze in 2015 on the ASEAN region which had provided baseline indicators on 2015 haze impact on health, economy and society. They recognised the need for ASEAN to embark in more comprehensive studies to further provide an in-depth understanding of the transboundary haze pollution.

The ministers commended the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution in reaffirming their readiness to provide assistance such as the deployment of the technical resources for firefighting assistance on emergency response situation, if requested, and to collaborate among MSC countries with enhanced cooperation and coordination to mitigate land and forest fires, when necessary. They noted with appreciation that the modality for sharing hotspot information among MSC countries has been operationalised during the dry season in southern ASEAN.

The ministers commended the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in the Mekong Sub-Region (MSC Mekong), in reaffirming their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Chiang Rai 2017 Plan of Action to further strengthen and synergise cooperation in the implementation of the Roadmap through a common set of priorities: information technology; public awareness and engagement; reduction of health and environmental risks; and air quality monitoring networks.

Specifically, the ministers were pleased to note the achievement of the target in 2017 with an annual cumulative hotspot
count in the MSC Mekong below 30,000, while agreeing to meet again in 2019 in Cambodia on the occasion of the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the AATHP, which will be held back-to-back with the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment.