Wintertime air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is among the worst in the world. In Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, coal-fired heating and cooking stoves in traditional “ger” (or circular felt) dwellings emit a toxic brew of pollution. While Mongolia is becoming an increasingly attractive investment and tourist destination, businesspeople and tourists generally steer clear of the capital city during winter months, in part because of the pervasive air pollution. Unfortunately, the over 600,000 residents living in Ulaanbaatar’s “ger districts” don’t have that option.
MCA-Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project (EEP) aims to reduce air pollution by providing financial incentives to encourage residents to become more energy efficient and use lower-emission heating devices and stoves. In December, the EEP launched an Affordable Energy Efficiency Home Design Contest to spur innovation in modern housing.
The EEP also hosted an International Energy Efficiency Exhibition to introduce energy-efficient products to consumers. This exhibition, the second held since the project’s inception, included nearly 50 domestic and international suppliers from the United States, Korea, and Turkey, among other nations. The event also served to increase the pipeline of innovative and appropriate products that are being considered for financial support by the EEP.
The EEP Project Director, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the City Government’s Air Quality Office opened the exhibition with impassioned remarks about the importance of clean energy to the health and well-being of city residents. A group of popular Mongolian rock singers then performed an original “clean air” song, penned for the occasion, to fervent applause. Suppliers enthusiastically exhibited energy-efficient home products, energy-efficient building materials, ger home insulation, electric heaters, liquefied petroleum gas heaters, pellet heaters, and air filtration systems to consumers who were eager to listen and learn. Compelling photos documenting the impact of air pollution from a student competition were on display, and awards were announced for the photos and a related essay contest.
Perhaps most inspiring, however, was the strength of the public and private-sector collaboration to find affordable solutions to this serious public health problem. The wide variety of products and ideas on display was encouraging—the prospects for sustainable market-based solutions appear to be growing by the day.
The Energy and Environment Project has added some of the products showcased in the exhibition to its analytical pipeline, and some of the producers have now organized to advocate for energy efficiency. At the same time, MCC is working hard to support MCA-Mongolia in its efforts—and we can’t seem to stop humming that Mongolian “clean air” song.