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United States

Air Quality Data Available (US0095)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

To promote the efficiend use of government resources, help protect the health of our personnel overseas, create partnerships on air quality with other nations, and contribute to the global scientific community, in February 2015, the Deparment of State and the Environmental Protection Agency launched a new parnership with a number of U.S. diplomatic missions overseas to enhance the availability of outdoor air quality data and expertise. The Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency will expand that effort to include 20 global cities and will begin making that data available on the Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow website, which provides air quality information for more than 400 U.S. cities.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 43. Air Quality Data

Commitment Text:

Make Additional Air Quality Data Available

To promote the efficient use of government resources, help protect the health of our personnel overseas, create partnerships on air quality with other nations, and contribute to the global scientific community, in February 2015, the Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency launched a new partnership with a number of U.S. diplomatic missions overseas to enhance the availability of outdoor air quality data and expertise. The Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency will expand that effort to include 20 global cities and will begin making that data available on the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website, which provides air quality information for more than 400 U.S. cities.

Responsible Institutions: Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Supporting Institutions: City government leaders

Start Date: Not specified...... ........ End Date: Not specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to expand the availability of air quality data by adding data for 20 global cities to the Department of State’s AirNow platform, [591] an online platform that stores and tracks air quality data.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

At the midterm, this commitment was substantially completed. Per the government’s midterm self-assessment report, data from 14 global cities in eight countries was publicly available on the AirNow website as of mid-2016, with data collected via air quality monitors at US embassies and consulates. [592]

End of term: Complete

This commitment is complete. Data for 25 global cities was available on the AirNow website by the end of term, exceeding the commitment’s target of 20 cities. [593] The cities (as listed in order on the AirNow website) include: New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad (India); Jakarta South and Jakarta Central (Indonesia); Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia); Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (Vietnam); Bogota (Colombia); Lima (Peru); Addis Ababa Central, Addis Ababa International School (Ethiopia); Kampala (Uganda); Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang (China); Dhaka (Bangladesh); Abu Dhabi, Dubai (United Arab Emirates); Pristina (Kosovo); Kuwait City (Kuwait); Manama (Bahrain), Kathmandu Embassy, Phora Durbar Kathmandu (Nepal); and Colombo (Sri Lanka).

At the end of term, the government has begun to leverage the newly available AirNow data in a variety of ways. For example, through the Airnow-International Initiative (AirNow-I), the US Environmental Protection Agency offers analytical tools to help monitor and manage air quality data, specifically by allowing users to collect, aggregate, summarize, and visualize AirNow data in a variety of ways. [594] In addition to hosting several AirNow-I webinars in 2016, [595] the US Environmental Protection Agency actively maintains the “AirNow-I Community,” a global network of agencies and international organizations that “collect, collaborate, and share knowledge” on air quality data and management in the form of community-driven technical support, networking platforms, and webinars. [596]

Similarly, as part of Air Quality Awareness Week from 1–5 May 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency also undertook efforts to publicize AirNow’s global data both online [597] and through country-specific events, such as presentations on air quality for university and high school students in Indonesia, a blog post on Embassy-led air quality engagements in Ethiopia, an air quality event at the American Center Korea in South Korea, a panel discussion and roundtable in Vietnam, and an “Air Fair” day in China. [598] Separately, on 14 March 2017, the US Embassy in Nepal and the Ministry of Population and Environment held a joint ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate a new Nepalese government’s Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) station alongside the US Embassy’s own AQM system, calling attention to air quality issues in Nepal.

Events such as these speak to the demand for better air quality data, and highlight ways in which the newly released AirNow data may eventually be used to improve global air quality.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

This commitment marginally opened government with respect to access in the cities where US AQM stations are now installed.

On a macro-level, with respect to the government’s efforts to improve the availability of air quality information worldwide (which comprises the commitment’s core aim), the World Air Quality Index Project—a non-profit initiative providing real-time air quality measurements—noted that as of February 2017, there were roughly 9,000 air quality monitoring stations spread across 800 cities and 70 countries worldwide. [599] In the aggregate, the EPA’s AirNow platform coverage constitutes a relatively minor improvement in information availability when viewed against this backdrop (comprising roughly .25% of monitoring stations worldwide and 2.5% of all cities with air monitoring stations). On a micro-level, data from the World Air Quality Index Project indicates that within those cities covered by the AirNow platform, 22 out of 59 total active Air Quality Monitoring stations (roughly 37%) are US stations linked to AirNow, indicating a more substantial scope of coverage among those cities appearing on the AirNow platform. [600] Moreover, in 10 cities covered by the AirNow platform, the US government’s AQM stations are the only active stations providing real-time air quality measurements. [601]

The most relevant level of analysis for this commitment is the 25 cities covered by the AirNow platform, which aligns most closely with the intended expansion of city-level coverage described in the commitment text. Given that US air monitoring stations reporting data on the AirNow platform comprise a minority of all active reporting stations in the 25 cities they cover, the commitment cannot be said to have opened government more substantially. Still, the disclosure of air quality information, particularly in cities that lacked real-time monitors previously, is a positive development not only for the US citizens and embassy personnel stationed abroad, but also for local residents, who can likewise use the information for health preparedness.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the United States had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government should nevertheless continue efforts to expand the number of air quality monitoring stations in the 25 global cities where it currently operates, as well as in additional cities on an ongoing basis.

Moreover, while the government completed this commitment as specified, there is little concrete evidence of US-led attempts to utilize AirNow data to effect global improvements in air quality (either directly or indirectly). One clear example came earlier from Beijing in 2008–2013, where the US embassy’s installation of air quality monitors contributed to the Chinese government’s decision to install its own AQM system and implement pollution reduction targets. [602] In the future, the US government should consider engaging in more active efforts (either direct or indirect) to effect air quality improvements using AirNow’s global data, similar to what occurred in China.

[591] AirNow. “Homepage.” https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.about_airnow. Consulted 2 July 2017.

[592] Open Government Partnership. “United States of America Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015–2017.” pp.44-45. September 2016. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf. Consulted 2 October 2017.

[593] Airnow “AirNow Department of State.” web archive from 11 July 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2GvrU4l.

[594] AirNow-I. “Basics.” Last updated 10 April 2015. https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=ani.basics. Consulted 4 September 2017.

[595] AirNow-I. “News.” Last updated 27 April 2016. https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=ani.morenews. Consulted 4 September 2017.

[596] AirNow-I. “Community.” Last updated 22 March 2017. https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=ani.whatcommunity. Consulted 4 September 2017.

[597] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Air Quality Around the World.”4 May 2017. https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/world.html. Consulted 4 September 2017.

[598] Ibid.

[599] World Air Quality Index. “Worldwide Air Quality Monitoring Data Coverage.” https://aqicn.org/sources/. Consulted 26 September 2017.

[600] This analysis was performed by counting the total number of active air quality monitoring stations per city as indicated by the World Air Quality Index. All AirNow stations are included in the Index. See World Air Quality Index. “Homepage.” https://aqicn.org/home/. Consulted 26 September 2017.

[601] These cities include Addis Ababa, Bogota, Colombo, Dhaka, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kampala, Lima, Manama, and Pristina. Ibid.

[602] Roberts, David. “How the US Embassy Tweeted to Clear Beijing’s Air.” Wired Magazine. 6 March 2015. https://www.wired.com/2015/03/opinion-us-embassy-beijing-tweeted-clear-air/. Consulted 4 September 2017.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership