ASEAN Cooperation on Environmentally Sustainable City


With a relatively high population of about 580 million people compounded by high rates of rural urban migration, rising affluence and expectations of the people, cities in ASEAN are facing numerous challenges to make them environmentally sustainable and liveable. Various programmes have been implemented by ASEAN cities to tackle those challenges and improve their environmental performance. However, by simply ensuring and maintaining good environmental performance is inadequate. ASEAN cities have to strive to go beyond environmental performance and move towards achieving environmental sustainability. ASEAN commitments to ensure that cities/urban areas in ASEAN are environmentally sustainable, while meeting the social and economic needs of the people are outlined in the ASCC Blueprint (2009 – 2015).

ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2009-2015
Section D.5: Promoting Quality Living Standards in ASEAN Cities/Urban Areas
Strategic Objective: Ensure cities/urban areas in ASEAN are environmentally sustainable, while meeting the social and economic needs of the people.

  1. Expand the existing work under the ASEAN Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Cities;
  2. Intensify individual and collective efforts to improve the quality of air and water within ASEAN through regional or national initiatives to reduce industrial and transportation pollutions;
  3. Share experiences, expertise and technology in areas such as urban planning including transportation, green building, water management, urban greenery and urban biodiversity, conservation, sanitation and waste management, 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and air, noise, water, and land pollution control, through among others twinning cities programme;
  4. Work towards initiatives such as “Low Carbon Society”, “Compact Cities”, “Eco-Cities” and “Environmentally Sustainable Transport”
  5. Develop internationally comparable measures for environmental sustainability for major cities in ASEAN by 2015;
  6. Introduce and implement an ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) Award by 2008 as an incentive to promote ESC practices.

ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities

The ASEAN Leaders acknowledged the abovesaid effort and agreed to intensify cooperation in addressing problems associated with urban environmental management and governance to achieve sustainable development as well as promoting clean and green environment through the establishment of the ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AWGESC). The following activities are carried out under the purview of the AWGESC.

ASEAN Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AIESC)

The ASEAN Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AIESC) which was endorsed by the ASEAN Environment Ministers in 2005 serves to assist ASEAN cities, especially the smaller and rapidly-growing, to pursue environmental sustainability. The programme covers 25 participating ASEAN cities. As participating cities of AIESC, regional activities are focused on these cities, such as to pilot test the revised ESC Key Indicators for Clean Air, Clean Land and Clean Water.

Network of Participating Cities of AIESC

Brunei DarussalamBandar Seri Begawan
CambodiaPhnom Penh, Siem Reap
IndonesiaPadang, Palembang, Pekanbaru
Lao PDRLuang Prabang, Vientiane, Xayabouri
MalaysiaKuantan, Putrajaya, North Kuching City Ha
MyanmarMandalay, Yangon
PhilippinesCagayan de Oro, Ilo-ilo, Quezon
ThailandBangkok, Chiangmai, Krabi, Phuket
Viet NamHa Noi, Ha Long, Da Nang

ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City (ESC) Award


To stimulate, benchmark, and recognize exemplary efforts on environmental sustainability, ASEAN has initiated the ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City (ESC) Award programme. The inaugural ASEAN ESC Award Presentation Ceremony was held in Ha Noi, Viet Nam on 8 October 2008, on the occasion of the 11th The ASEAN Environment Ministers presented the awards to ten cities/townships/districts in ASEAN that had made exemplary efforts towards environmental sustainability. The ESC Award aims to make ASEAN cities environmentally sustainable by recognising exemplary efforts and sharing best indigenous practices to keep cities clean, green,and liveable.

Recipients of the 1st ASEAN ESC Awards (2008)

Brunei DarussalamTemburong
CambodiaPhnom Penh
Lao PDRLuang Prabang
MalaysiaNorth Kuching City Hall
PhilippinesPuerto Princesa
SingaporeSouth West Community Development Council
Viet NamHa Long

The 2nd ASEAN ESC Award 2011 Presentation Ceremony was held in Bali, Indonesia on 23 November 2011. This event also included the presentation of Certificates of Recognition, for the first time, to six cities in ASEAN which were selected on a competitive basis. Each Certificate recognises notable efforts made by small cities (20,000 – 750,000 people) and big cities (750,000 – 1.5 million people) in ASEAN in the categories of “Clean Air”, “Clean Land”, and “Clean Water”.

Recipients of the 2nd ASEAN ESC Awards (2011)

Brunei DarussalamNational Housing Scheme Rimba
CambodiaPhnom Penh
Lao PDRXamneau
MalaysiaPerbadanan Putrajaya
MyanmarPyin Oo Lwin
PhilippinesPuerto Princesa
SingaporeSouth West Community Development Council
Viet NamDanang

Recipients of 1st ASEAN Certificates of Recognition (2011)

City CountryCategory
MakassarIndonesiaClean Air for Big Cities
North Kuching City HallMalaysiaClean Air for Small Cities
BanjarmasinIndonesiaClean Water for Big Cities
Kuantan Municipal CouncilMalaysiaClean Water for Small Cities
PalembangIndonesiaClean Land for Big Cities
PhitsanulokThailandClean Land for Small Cities

The ASEAN Environment Ministers conferred the 3rd ASEAN ESC Award and 2nd Certificates of Recognition for Clean Air, Clean Water and Clean Land at the sideline of the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (IAMME) on 30 October 2014 in Vientiane, Lao PDR to the following cities:

Recipients of the 3rd ASEAN ESC Awards (2014)

Brunei DarussalamBandar Seri Begawan
CambodiaBattambang Municipality
Lao PDRLuang Prabang
PhilippinesSan Carlos
SingaporeNorth West District
ThailandChiang Rai City
Viet NamHue City

Recipients of 2nd ASEAN Certificates of Recognition (2014)

City CountryCategory
TangerangIndonesiaClean Air for Big Cities
Da Lat CityViet NamClean Air for Small Cities
Phnom PenhCambodiaClean Water for Big Cities
Nakhon SawanThailandClean Water for Small Cities
Davao CityPhilippinesClean Land for Big Cities
Roi-etThailandClean Land for Small Cities


The Presentation Ceremony was held at the National Convention Centre, Vientiane, Lao PDR, attended by all 15th IAMME delegates, the Chairperson of the ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AWGESC) and National Focal Points, City Mayors and officials, and AWGESC Partners.

Trophies and certificates were presented by H.E. Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Lao PDR and H.E. Mr. Say Samal, Minister of Environment, Cambodia, on behalf of the Environment Ministers of ASEAN Member States, to the City Mayors of ASEAN Member States or their representatives.

High Level Seminar on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (HLS-ESC)

seminar_escThe promotion of ‘Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC)’ was identified as the immediate priority area for regional collaboration among EAS countries at the Inaugural East Asia Summit Environment Ministers Meeting (EAS EMM) in 2008. Subsequently, the Governments of Japan, Indonesia, Australia and Singapore organised the 1st HLS-ESC on 2-4 March 2010 in Jakarta, Indonesia to promote information exchange and foster concrete collaborative actions on ESC among EAS countries. This was followed up with the 2nd HLS-ESC on 15-16 March 2011 in Kitakyushu, Japan, 3rd HLS-ESC on 6-8 March 2012 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and 4th HLS-ESC on 21-22 March 2013, in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

The 5th HLS-ESC on 28 February – 1 March 2014 in Surabaya, Indonesia continued to set the stage for networking, knowledge exchange, and agenda-setting among the top cities and their supporting stakeholders of ASEAN and East Asia. The 5th HLS-ESC was jointly organised by the Governments of Japan, Indonesia, US Agency for International Development (USAID), the ASEAN Secretariat, and the ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AWGESC) with support from the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) as the event Secretariat. The Seminar suggested and recommended to the EAS Environment Ministers to consider actions on broad policies and legal frameworks as well as practical projects under the EAS collaboration on ESC.

Ongoing/Completed Activities

 ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme


The ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme is a regional initiative aimed at promoting the development of Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) across ASEAN countries. It provides seed funding, technical assistance and other forms of support to raise local capacity for implementing innovative and voluntary bottom-up initiatives, as well as to strengthen national ESC frameworks and actions that facilitate the replication and scaling up of good practices and policies within and across countries. It also promotes city-to-city collaboration and provides a broad and inclusive platform matching ASEAN cities with interested resource partners.This programme has been realised with the generous support of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).

Clean Air for Smaller Cities Project

The Clean Air for Smaller Cities Project with funding from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany was first implemented from January 2009 to December 2012. The Project is now in its second phase and will complete in December 2015. The project has been implemented in 12 cities in eight ASEAN Member States: namely Chiang Mai and Nakon Ratchasima (Thailand), Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro (Philippines), Palembang and Surakarta (Indonesia), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Melaka (Malaysia), Bac Ninh and Can Tho (Vietnam), Yangon (Myanmar) and Vientiane (Lao PDR) with a budget support of EUR 5 million.

The Project aims to support smaller and medium sized cities in the ASEAN Region to develop and implement Clean Air Plans (CAPs). The project focuses on medium-sized cities which have a vital role to play in national development.

The Project has been able to deliver: ten emission inventories implemented, six clean air plans developed and five training courses rolled out through 35 trainings delivered. The Project’s sustainability goal is to institutionalize “Train for Clean Air” or T4CA beyond the project duration and establish regional and national training hubs.

CityLinks Pilot Partnership between U.S. and ASEAN Member States

The CityLinks Pilot Partnership between the U.S. and ASEAN Member States is an 18-month technical exchange program focusing on strengthening urban climate resilience and adaptation in selected cities in ASEAN Member States. The activity is funded by USAID, and implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC). The CityLinks Pilot Partnership aims to define a structured and strategic approach to city-to-city learning on environmental sustainability in line with ASEAN goals and builds on the initial success of the ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable Cities Model Cities Programme (MCP). ASEAN cities will be paired with U.S. cities to share best practices and provide practitioner-to-practitioner assistance on innovative approaches, technologies and good governance tools to support planning and implementation to prepare for adverse climate change impacts. ASEAN cities will become part of an existing online knowledge network to connect practitioners and promote sustained technical exchanges.

Climate Leadership Academy (CLA) on Urban Climate Adaptation for Cities in Southeast Asia: “From Risk Barriers to Results – Managing the Social, Political, Environmental, and Financial Risk of Urban Infrastructure” was held on 13-15 August 2013 in Jakarta as the first activity of the CityLinks Pilot Partnership project between the United States and AMS. Eight city teams from seven AMS took part in the CLA, namely: Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Palembang and Jakarta (Indonesia), Paksane (Lao PDR), Kuantan (Malaysia), Legazpi (Philippines), Chiang Rai (Thailand), and Ho Chi Minh (Viet Nam).

A survey was conducted following-up to the CLA as a means of ascertaining cities’ desire and a preliminary screening tool to gauge cities’ eligibility to participate in the city-to-city technical exchange through CityLinks. Based on the survey responses and selection criteria, Legazpi City, Philippines and Chiang Rai, Thailand were chosen to participate in the city-to-city technical exchanges with Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Cambridge, Massachusetts, respectively.