SEOUL, Ban Ki-moon, a former chief of the United Nations, stressed the need for concerted efforts to tackle fine dust air pollution Monday as South Korea launched a new pan-national agency to address the issue.
Ban, the agency's inaugural chief, also said the country should make efforts to reduce fine dust emissions significantly to help facilitate cooperation with China.
The National Council on Climate and Air Quality set sail Monday, tasked with providing the government with policy recommendations on how to tackle fine dust pollution and exploring ways to cooperate with neighboring countries.
"As the fine dust issue is tangled with shared interests, it is not easy to resolve it. For fundamental solutions, I will make efforts to communicate with the people and accommodate their opinions beyond some sectors' vested interests," Ban said in an opening speech at a ceremony in Seoul to mark the body's launch.
South Korea designated fine dust as a social disaster in March as the intensity and frequency of the air pollution has increased in recent months. A large portion of the fine dust is believed to blow in from China.
President Moon Jae-in earlier asked Ban to help the government address the issue and appointed him the first head of the agency. Ban played a key role in producing the Paris climate accord in 2015.
South Korea's state-run agencies have said pollutants coming from China are responsible for about 50 to 70 percent of the air pollution over the peninsula. Beijing has rejected such data, claiming the South should not try to find an external cause of fine dust pollution.
Ban stressed the need to seek international cooperation in dealing with the fine dust issue.
"But for mutual benefits to both countries, our efforts to significantly reduce the emission of fine dust should come first," he noted.
"It is high time to address the issue as the public interest and the government's resolve to tackle fine dust have reached the highest levels," Ban said.
The agency plans to come up with measures to cope with the high density of fine dust in the winter of this year.
It also plans to explore a long-term plan to resolve the fine dust issue in a fundamental manner.
Beginning in the second year after its launch, the body will assess the government's performance in the previous year and provide policy recommendations.
"The people deserve to enjoy clean air. Let's make a country safe from fine dust air pollution together," Moon said in a message to celebrate the launch read by his chief of staff Noh Young-min.
Moon expressed hope that the agency could set an example of finding cooperative models with the South's neighboring countries in addressing the issue.
Source: Yonhap news Agency