The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Environment in the Asia Pacific
Keywords:Asia Pacific, Covid-19, environmental policy, environmentalism
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the consequences of political and ecological choices that have been made and continue to be made in the Asia Pacific. Over recent decades, the region’s rapid urbanization and industrialization have played a significant role in dynamic national economic development, a rapid rise in per capita income and the establishment of some of the world’s fastest-growing cities. Development has, however, come at a heavy price: planetary-health experts believe that a byproduct of human intrusion into remote wilderness areas has been a sharp uptick in environmental degradation and zoonotic diseases such COVID-19. Moreover, people living with poor air quality are more susceptible to this virus, and airborne particulate matter may even help to spread the virus. A study conducted by the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health has confirmed that there is a statistical correlation between high levels of air pollution and increased Covid-19 mortality rates.
Wu Xiao, Nethery, R. C., Sabath, B. M., Braun, D., & Dominici, F.. ‘Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States’, Science advances, 4 November 2020, 6:45 [online]. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33148655/ (Accessed 2 January 2021)
Lee Yen Nee. ‘East Asia poverty could rise for first time in 20 years due to the pandemic, World Bank says’, CNBC, Finding Solutions, 29 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/poverty-to-rise-in-east-asia-for-first-time-in-20-years-due-to-covid-world-bank.html (Accessed 4 December 2020)
Vidal, John. ‘Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge’, Scientific American, 18 March 2020, 322:4 [online], Available at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/destroyed-habitat-creates-the-perfect-conditions-for-coronavirus-to-emerge/ (Accessed 29 August 2020)
‘Asia Pacific hardest hit by COVID-19, climate-related disasters’, Al Jazeera, News|Climate Change, 24 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/24/asia-pacific-hardest-hit-by-covid-19-climate-related-disasters (Accessed 2 December 2020)
Myllyvirta, Lauri. ‘Analysis: Coronavirus temporarily reduced China’s CO2 emissions by a quarter’, CarbonBrief, 19 February 2020, updated 30 March 2020 [online]. Available on https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-coronavirus-has-temporarily-reduced-chinas-co2-emissions-by-a-quarter (Accessed 12 January, 2021)
‘World’s most polluted countries 2019 (PM 2.5), IQAir, 7 February 2021, [online]. Available at https://www.iqair.com/world-most-polluted-countries (Accessed 7 February 2021)
Burke, Marshall. ‘Global Food, Environment and Economic Dynamics’, G-FEED, 8 March 2020 [online]. Available at http://www.g-feed.com/2020/03/covid-19-reduces-economic-activity.html (Accessed 29 August 2020)
Cheriyedath, Susha. ‘COVID-19 lockdown measures reduced air pollution in Southeast Asia’, NEWS Medical Life Sciences, 21 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200921/COVID-19-lockdown-measures-reduced-air-pollution-in-Southeast-Asia.aspx
(Accessed 6 February 2021)
‘Coronavirus - China smog returns after pandemic cleared the air’, PhysOrg | Environment, 8 May 2020 [online]. Available at https://phys.org/news/2020-05-china-smog-pandemic-air.html (Accessed 8 February 2021)
‘China smog returns after pandemic cleared the air’, France 24,, 8 May 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.france24.com/en/20200508-china-smog-returns-after-pandemic-cleared-the-air (Accessed 10 February 2021)
‘Record global carbon dioxide concentrations despite COVID-19 crisis’, UN Environment programme, 11 May 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/record-global-carbon-dioxide-concentrations-despite-covid-19-crisis (Accessed 10 February 2021)
Reuters Staff. ‘China to allocate $57 billion to environment protection’, Reuters, 21 May 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-environment-budget/china-to-allocate-57-billion-to-environment-protection-idUSKBN22Y0BU (Accessed 22 January 2021)
2019 electricity & other energy statistics (preliminary),’ China Energy Portal | 中国能源门户, 21 January 2020 [online]. Available at https://chinaenergyportal.org/2019-electricity-other-energy-statistics-preliminary/ (Accessed 22 January 2021)
Statista Research Department. ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Japan - statistics & facts,’ statistaz; Health, Pharma & Medtech State of Health, 27 November 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.statista.com/topics/6087/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-in-japan/ (Accessed 22 January 2021)
Mikula-Wright, Rebecca. ‘Japan must not forget climate change as it plans COVID-19 recovery’, NIKKEI Asia, 2 September, 2020 [online]. Available at https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Japan-must-not-forget-climate-change-as-it-plans-COVID-19-recovery (Accessed 2 January 2021)
Chase-Lubitz, Jesse. ‘COVID-19 a threat and opportunity for Japan’s environmental activists’, the japantimes, 16 April 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/16/national/covid-19-environmental-activists/ (Accessed 2 January 2021)
Takahashi, Ryusei. ‘Green recovery' offers Japan a chance to slash carbon emissions’, japantimes | Science & Health [online]. Available at
(Accessed 31 January 2021)
‘Air quality in South Korea’, IQAir, 7 February 2021, [online]. Available at https://www.iqair.com/us/south-korea (Accessed 7 February 2021)
‘South Korea – Country Commercial Guide: Air Pollution Control’, International Trade Commission, 20 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.trade.gov/knowledge-product/korea-air-pollution-control#:~:text=Yonhap%20news%20reports%20that%20in,year%20by%20approximately%205.9%20percent (Accessed 7 February 2021)
Babe, Ann. ‘High-flying Ideas?’, U.S. News and World Report, 8 August, 2018, [online]. Available at https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-08-08/seoul-turns-to-technology-to-battle-air-pollution
(Accessed 7 February 2021)
‘South Korea Analysis: Air Pollution Cuts Lives Short by More Than A Year;, AQLI/Air Quality Life Index, 20 November 2019 [online]. Available at https://aqli.epic.uchicago.edu/news/south-korea-analysis-air-pollution-cuts-lives-short-by-more-than-a-year/ (Accessed 7 February 2021)
Seo JH, Jeon HW, Sung UJ, Sohn J-R. ‘Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Air Quality in Korea’, Atmosphere, 21 October 2020 11:10 [online]. Available at https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos11101137 (Accessed 7 February 2021)
Kim, Sung-Young, Thurbon E., Tan Hao, Mathews J.. ‘South Korea’s Green New Deal shows the world what a smart economic recovery looks like’, The CØNVERSATION, 9 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://theconversation.com/south-koreas-green-new-deal-shows-the-world-what-a-smart-economic-recovery-looks-like-145032 (Accessed 7 February 2021)
‘South Korea’, IQAir Qualilty Index.[online]. Available at https://www.iqair.com/south-korea (Accessed 10 February 2021)
‘World's most polluted countries 2019 (PM2.5)’, IQAir World Air Qualilty Index.[online]. Available at https://www.iqair.com/us/world-most-polluted-countries (Accessed 10 February 2021)
Nguyen, Sen. ‘In Vietnam, air pollution a bigger daily threat than Covid-19, as smog envelops Hanoi’, The Coronavirus Pandemic/This Week in Asia, 27 January 2021 [online]. Available at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3119332/vietnam-air-pollution-bigger-daily-threat-covid-19 (Accessed 7 February 2021)
‘From COVID-19 to Climate Change: How Vietnam can become the Champion of Green Recovery’, World Bank Report|Taking Stock, December 2020 [online]. Available at
World’s most polluted countries 2019 (PM 2.5), IQAir
‘Energy mix for power generation in Indonesia as of the first semester of 2019, by source’, statista Energy & Environment | Energy, 2021 [online]. Available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/993362/indonesia-energy-mix-for-power-generation-by-source/ (Accessed 23 January 2021)
Schlanger, Zoë. ‘The global demand for palm oil is driving the fires in Indonesia’, QUARTZ, 18 September 2019 [online]. Available at https://qz.com/1711172/the-global-demand-for-palm-oil-is-driving-the-fires-in-indonesia/ (Accessed 13 January 2021)
Cheong Kang Hao, Ngiam NJ, Morgan GG, Pek PP, Tan BY, Lai JW, Koh JM, Ong MEH, Ho AFW. ‘Acute Health Impacts of the Southeast Asian Transboundary Haze Problem-A Review’, International journal of environmental research and public health. 6 September 2019, 16:18 [online]. Available at
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31500215/ (Accessed 31 January 2021)
Pines, Lawrence. ‘Malaysia Commodity Trade: Learn Why Palm Oil Is A Volatile Export’, commodity.com, 5 November 2020 [online]. Available at https://commodity.com/data/malaysia/
Accessed 10 February 2021)
Tan, Vincent. ‘How will Malaysia's environment fare after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions?’ CNA channelnewsasia.com, 30 May 2020 [online]. Available at
‘Beyond COVID: Malaysia’s pandemic recovery plan and renewables records tumble in Europe’, PV Tech, 5 June 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.pv-tech.org/beyond-covid-1-june-7-june/ (Accessed 7 February 2021)
Regalado, Francesca. ‘Asia risks missing 'green' economic reset after coronavirus’, NIkkei Asia | ASIA INSIGHT, 23 June, 2020 [online]. Available at https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Asia-risks-missing-green-economic-reset-after-coronavirus (Accessed 3 December 2020)
Sembiring, Margareth. ‘The Same Old Normal for Climate Action in Post-Pandemic Southeast Asia’, Emerging Voices on THE NEW NORMAL IN ASIA, 26 September 2020 [online]. Available at https://www.nbr.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/publications/new-normal-emerging-voices-sembiring-092620.pdf (Accessed 2 January 2021)
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Hao Huang
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
- Papers must be submitted on the understanding that they have not been published elsewhere (except in the form of an abstract or as part of a published lecture, review, or thesis) and are not currently under consideration by another journal published by any other publisher.
- It is also the authors responsibility to ensure that the articles emanating from a particular source are submitted with the necessary approval.
- The authors warrant that the paper is original and that he/she is the author of the paper, except for material that is clearly identified as to its original source, with permission notices from the copyright owners where required.
- The authors ensure that all the references carefully and they are accurate in the text as well as in the list of references (and vice versa).
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
- The journal/publisher is not responsible for subsequent uses of the work. It is the author's responsibility to bring an infringement action if so desired by the author.