Cities – environment – transport in the ASEAN region

Programme description

Title: Cities – environment – transport in the ASEAN region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam
Lead executing agency: ASEAN Secretariat
Overall term: 2013 to 2018


Asia’s urban population is seeing rapid growth. In 2020, it is expected that 50 per cent of the population of ASEAN member states will be living in cities. The growing urban population and continual economic growth are having an adverse environmental impact, for example worsening air quality. The increase in air pollution is partly due to the greater volume of traffic, such as the growing number of private cars and motorcycles. Other means of transport, such as shipping and associated transshipment traffic, also influence air quality and cause local environmental problems, for example through polluting stretches of the coast.

Cities and urban regions are also contributing significantly to climate change. They cause approximately 70 per cent of global CO2 emissions. In many cities in the ASEAN region, the transport sector is the main source of these greenhouse gases. Thus one of the major challenges facing urban decision-makers is to introduce more sustainable transport systems while reducing air pollutants and greenhouse gases. At the same time, cities play a central role in national development processes.

With a few exceptions (such as Singapore), ASEAN member states are not implementing sustainable and climate-friendly transport policies at national or local level. There are a number of programmes, strategies and action plans concerning the transport sector at ASEAN level. The environment and climate change mitigation have played a negligible role to date, however. The Brunei Action Plan, for example, ASEAN’s key document concerning the transport sector, has a strong focus on enhanced connectivity and only vaguely mentions ‘exchange and adoption of experiences, projects and knowledge related to environmentally friendly transport systems, vehicles and fuels'.


Human, legal and organisational capacity for environmental and climate protection is strengthened at regional, national and subnational level in the ASEAN region.


The programme’s individual modules aim at reducing both pollutants and greenhouse gases. Clean air measures usually also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the effects of increasing energy efficiency in land transport is a decrease in the emission of local pollutants as less fuel is required per unit transported. Reducing exhaust emissions and port waste improves the quality of life in port cities and reduces marine and coastal pollution.

The Clean Air for Smaller Cities (CASC) module supports selected medium-sized cities in developing and implementing clean air plans, while the Sustainable Port Development in the ASEAN Region (SPD) module aims to improve the quality and efficiency of environmental and workplace safety management in ports. The aim of the third module, Energy Efficiency and Climate Change Mitigation in the Land Transport Sector (TCC), is to reduce greenhouse gases through increasing energy efficiency.


The participatory approach, which has strengthened local ownership, has led to partnerships being established between civil society, universities, municipal administrations and other institutions in some cities and ports.

Many activities, such as setting up emission inventories in cities and ports, are being carried out by experts from universities in the participating cities. The participating lecturers are already advising other cities in their own country or in other ASEAN member states. Harmonisation of the approach to establishing inventories across the region also enables comparisons to be made between the different countries.

The project's activities to measure air quality in Palembang in Indonesia prompted the municipal administration there to significantly increase the budget for air quality testing. The local environmental authority has also established clear areas of competence for measuring air quality and evaluating the data.

In the transport sector, planning instruments such as action plans by the transport ministries on climate change mitigation are being improved. Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and the Philippines are being supported in developing their climate protection programmes in the transport sector, including nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). They are also receiving advice on the basic technical aspects of greenhouse gas reporting. The programme is investing at regional level in the exchange of experience and better coordination between ASEAN member states on the topics of emission and fuel consumption standards, green freight transport and transport NAMAs.

Progress has been made in improving the quality of environmental and workplace safety management in ports in the ASEAN region by conducting needs analyses and deficit analyses in national and international law, by involving all partners in developing action plans and by running courses for port staff.

Additional information