The month of November indicate beginning of winter in Thailand. This is the time of the year that marks an onset of air pollution season. Thailand has been facing a critical problem of PM2.5 in the air, which is a particulate matter that has a particle size of smaller than 2.5 microns mostly originating from automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke, burning smoke and fuel combustion in factories’ process. The PM2.5 pollution is at crisis levels for the past ten years. However, there is still no effective legislation to regulate air pollutant emissions. This has led to competition on drafting new regulations, i.e., clean air act, which has been driven by the collaboration of experts and the public. However, all draft versions of the clean air act have been rejected, citing financial concerns, without the opportunity for discussion in the parliamentary session. Members of parliament, who represent the people, have raised questions about the reasons and necessity of such legislation.
Discussion on different drafts for Clean Air Act
Before election of this year, there were five versions of the act, including two versions proposed by political parties and three versions proposed by public organizations. Each version aims to control and manage air pollution for the benefit of the public, including controlling and addressing the root causes of air pollution. The 5 versions were as follows:
- draft “Clean Air for the public Act”, proposed by Bhumjaithai Party on July 9th, 2020.
- draft “Management for Clean Air Act”, proposed by 12,000 people on July 13th, 2020.
- draft “Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) Act”, proposed by Move Forward Party.
- draft “Supervising on Management of Clean air for Holistic Health Act”, proposed by Clean Air Network.
- draft “Clean Air for the Public Act”, proposed by Palang Pracharat Party in December 2021.
However, after the election, the new government was formed, and effort started to be made by Strategic Transformation Office to integrate all the drafted Acts together by set up a committee representing relating parties that proposed various versions of the clean air act and compiling a new version under the name “Management for Clean Air Act”.
The latest version of the Management for Clean Air Act was distributed for public hearing on Strategic Transformation Office’s website between October 30th – November 13th and a hearing seminar was hold on 3 times with the most recent one publicuzed on November 9th of this year. There are 5 bases for this draft Act as followed,
- Dealing with PM 2.5 air pollution problem is a task that required cooperation of more than one government agency.
- Setting up a mechanism that allows governmental committees and agencies to work together on air pollution management.
- Bringing in private organizations to help on air pollution management under PPP (public-private partnerships) model.
- Building up a system and mechanism where air pollution sources can be managed continuously which will help during air pollution crisis period.
- Utilizing innovation and new tools including technology, economics, budget, social, legal, and public relations.
Content of the Draft Management for Clean Air Act
Since this version of the act currently has the highest chance of getting published as a real regulation, this article is going to review structure of this draft regulation.
Draft Management for Clean Air Act is composed of 11 sections as followed,
- Definition: this section gives definition of significant terms used in this draft regulation such as “clean air,” “clean air quality standard,’ “Polluted air,” “air pollution status,” “air pollution status,” and “open burning.”
- Section 1 – General chapter: this section lays out duty of the government and right of people for clean air and for information relating to clean air. For example, article 8 of this draft regulation states that people have rights for clean air and for participation air quality management, including access to relating information, right for self-protection from air pollution, and right for gathering to participate in government decision, advising on policy, taking part in planning etc.
- Section 2 – Committee: this section lays out roles and duties of three committees: Committee on Clean Air Policy, Committee for Administration and Management for Clean Air, and Provincial and Special Area Clean Air Committee. Such committees will be used as a platform to coordinate on many aspects of air quality management such as environment, agriculture, industry, public disaster, business, international relation, and forestry.
- Section 3 – Management System: this section establishes an overview of the country’s clean air management system. Not only that emission standard can be set under this regulation, but new tools can be used such as emission charge as well. For example, management system states in Articles 33–41 are composed of air quality ambient standard, monitoring system for clean air, national database system for air quality, yearly report, and action plan.
- Section 4 – Pollution Sources: composed of 4 parts: Part 1- Measures to control pollution from permanent locations; Part 2 – Measures to control pollution from open burning; Part 3 – Vehicle Pollution Control Measures; and Part 4 – Pollution Control Measures from Transboundary Pollution.
- Section 5 – Surveillance Zone and Pollution-Affected Zone: includes provisions regarding the criteria for becoming such a zone and how to implement integrated management.
- Section 6 – Tools and Measures: this section provides for economic tools and measures to support and provide incentives for clean air. Economic tools that can be used are stated in articles 70–72 that are composed of tax, emission fee, emission trade, insurance and subsidy.
- Section 7 – Clean Air Officer: regulations regarding the duties and powers of officials in carrying out operations.
- Section 8 – Civil Liability: this section gives provisions regarding civil liability in the case of causing air pollution.
- Section 9 – Penalties: provisions regarding penalties for violating or not complying with this Act.
- Transitional provisions: this section gives statements regarding time frames and specific actions to comply with the Act.
The latest version for draft regulation can be obtained using QR code below.
The Strategic Transformation Office announced that after having public hearing, the draft Act will be presented to the cabinet by Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment by the end of November 2023. In case of cabinet approval, the Act will be reviewed by the council of the state before sending to the house of representatives for consideration before actual publication.
Due to PM2.5 crisis in the recent years, politicians from all parties have either promised or announced that they are supporting the clean air act. Expectations have already been increased among stakeholders that this draft regulation will finally see the light of day.