Overview of ASEAN Cooperation on Environment

Land Area4,46 million square kilometres (3% of the world’s total)
ASEAN Forest Cover2000: 2,089,742 square kilometres
2007: 1,904,593 square kilometres
ASEAN Coastline173,000 kilometres
ASEAN Peatland Area25 million hectares (60% of global tropical peatland)
Population (2011)604,803,100
Projected Population in 2020650 million
ASEAN GDP per Capita (2008)(range among AMS)USD465 – USD37,597
Policy Framework for Sustainable Development Cooperation in ASEANASEAN Vision 2020 (15 December 1997)
ASEAN Concord II (7 October 2003)
ASEAN Charter (15 December 2008)
Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (1 March 2009)

The ASEAN region is endowed with rich natural resources that sustain essential life support systems both for the region and the world. Apart from providing water, food and energy, these natural resources play an important role in sustaining a wide range of economic activities and livelihoods.

The region is blessed with a variety of unique ecosystems such as the Mekong River Basin, Ha Long Bay and Lake Toba. The region has a long coastline, measuring about 173,000 kilometres in total, and is surrounded by major seas and gulfs such as the South China Sea, the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

By virtue of its location in the tropics, ASEAN region is also endowed with abundant freshwater resources. In 2007, the region had a total capacity of 5,675 billion cubic metres of internal renewable water resources, with Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR and Malaysia having the highest per capita water resource availability.

While occupying only 3 per cent of the world’s total land area, the region is renowned for its rich biological heritage, comprising the three mega biodiversity countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, which together represent around 80 per cent of global biological diversity. The forest cover in ASEAN is about 45 per cent compared to the world’s average of 30.3 per cent and it provides the natural habitat for up to 40 per cent of all species on Earth.

In terms of demography, ASEAN is highly populated. In mid 2008, the region had about 580 million people with a density of 130 people per square kilometre, one of the highest in the world. Population density is especially high in megacities such as Jakarta and Manila at about 10,000 people per square kilometre, spurred by increasing rural-urban migration and rapid urbanisation. In 2005, 44 percent of the region’s total population were living in urban areas and this is projected to increase to 55 percent by 2020.

Increased population, rapid economic growth, combined with the existing and region-wide social inequities among the ASEAN countries have essentially exerted increasing pressures on the natural resources of the region and brought along various common or transboundary environmental issues, such as air, water and land pollution, urban environmental degradation, transboundary haze pollution, and depletion of natural resources, particularly biological diversity. It has also led to increased consumption of resources and generation of waste, resulting in unsustainable development. Therefore, despite an abundance of natural resources, ASEAN, as elsewhere, is facing an enormous challenge in keeping a delicate balance of environmental sustainability and economic development.

Policy and Institutional Framework

Recognising the importance of environmental cooperation for sustainable development and regional integration, ASEAN has since 1977 cooperated closely in promoting environmental cooperation among its member states. Currently, ASEAN environmental cooperation focuses on ten priority areas of regional importance as reflected in the Blueprint for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC Blueprint) 2009-2015 as follows:

ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2009-2015
Section D. Ensuring Environmental Sustainability
ASEAN shall work towards achieving sustainable development as well as promoting clean and green environment by protecting the natural resource base for economic and social development including the sustainable management and conservation of soil, water, mineral, energy, biodiversity, forest, coastal and marine resources as well as the improvement in water and air quality for the ASEAN region. ASEAN will actively participate in global efforts towards addressing global environmental challenges, including climate change and the ozone layer protection, as well as developing and adapting environmentally-sound technology for development needs and environmental sustainability.
D.1. Addressing global environmental issues
D.2. Managing and preventing transboundary environmental pollution (transboundary haze pollution and transboundary movement of hazardous wastes)
D.3. Promoting sustainable development through environmental education and public participation
D.4. Promoting environmentally sound technology
D.5. Promoting quality living standards in ASEAN cities/urban areas
D.6. Harmonizing environmental policies and databases
D.7. Promoting the sustainable use of coastal and marine environment
D.8. Promoting sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity
D.9. Promoting the sustainability of freshwater resources
D.10.Responding to climate change and addressing its impacts
D.11.Promoting sustainable forest management

The following chart illustrates the current ASEAN Institutional Framework for Environmental Cooperation.


The following chart illustrates the current ASEAN Institutional Framework for Cooperation on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The current lead country arrangement and priority areas for regional cooperation are as follows:

Global environmental issues (MEAs)
AWGMEAViet NamThailand
Transboundary Environmental Pollution
Public awareness and environmental education
AWGEEBrunei DarussalamBrunei Darussalam
Environmentally sound technologies and cleaner production
Urban environmental management and governance
Sustainable development monitoring and reporting, database harmonization
-(ASEAN Secretariat)(ASEAN Secretariat)
Coastal and marine environment
AWGCME PhilippinesPhilippines
Sustainable management of biodiversity
Freshwater resources
Climate change
AWGCCThailandViet Nam
Sustainable Consumption and Production-Indonesia
* Separate mechanism under ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP).

As environmental issues are interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral in nature and have impacts at the regional and global levels, concerted efforts have been made to coordinate activities with the relevant sectoral bodies of ASEAN, and other regional and international institutions. Environmental considerations have been incorporated into the development plans of other sectors to ensure that the goals of environmentally sound sustainable development are achieved.