Pass clean air bill now

Pass clean air bill now

After years of putting up with worsening PM2.5 pollution, Thailand will finally have its own clean air legislation by the end of the year.

Various environmental groups and civil interest groups began pushing for such legislation over five years ago, and their hope is very close to becoming reality.

This week, the Lower House officially began vetting five different drafts of the legislation -- three submitted by political parties, namely Bhumjaithai, Pheu Thai and Move Forward; one by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources; and last but not least, the so-called "People's Version".

The final version of the draft, which is likely to be a mixture of all five proposals, will be sent for reading by parliament within the first half of the year. The government is aiming to pass the bill into law by the end of the year.

The clean air legislation will be a turning point for the nation's campaign to protect the environment, as the piece of legislation has garnered an unprecedented level of attention from both the public as well as policymakers in the government.

Once it is passed, the law will embolden environmental groups to press for more action for their cause.

For example, a conservation network which includes the ENLAWTHAI Foundation, Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand and Greenpeace Thailand is planning to resend its proposal for a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) to the House when it convenes on Feb 14. The group had unsuccessfully tried to urge the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration to approve the scheme in 2021 and 2022.

PRTR is a crucial mechanism for monitoring and enforcing pollutant emissions, and once approved, industries and farms will be required to list in detail their overall emissions and clarify their sources.

In essence, all five drafts aim to empower various agencies at all levels to monitor and enforce laws relating to pollution. In short, all five drafts aim to increase public participation in the process. In the past, these tasks were carried out solely by the government, albeit with a lot more input from the companies it is supposed to be monitoring, as opposed to the public it is supposed to protect.

All drafts call for the use of economic mechanisms such as a new air pollution tax, the establishment of a clean air fund, and the use of other incentives to prompt polluters to make their supply chain greener.

There are some differences, the people's version seeks to hand out more roles to local communities, while the MFP's version targets companies which source their products from businesses which insist on using fire to prepare their plots for planting.

Regardless of the minor differences, one big question remains -- will the clean air legislation be enough to handle the problem?

To ensure the new legislation is more than just a paper tiger, the law must ensure the public is truly involved in the entire process.

The new legislation must truly decentralise the process to local communities and prevent top-down decision-making from the central government.

Most importantly, the clean air legislation must order polluters to reveal the emissions from their supply chains and clarify their harvesting processes.

Without transparency and real public participation, the clean air law will end up becoming nothing more than a major waste of time.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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