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12 December 2022

First-of-its-kind GEMM Asia Summit addresses urgent crises facing mega-cities

Optica, the American Geophysical Union and the National University of Singapore partnered to bring together experts in climate, technology and policy for critical discussions.

SINGAPORE – On 5-6 December, lawyers, economists, government officials, climate scientists and technologists from all over Asia gathered for GEMM Asia, a summit organized by the Global Environmental Measurement and Monitoring (GEMM) Initiative and hosted at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law. The GEMM Initiative, a partnership between Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is working to build an international network focused on regional-based solutions to climate and environmental issues.

Caption: Representatives from Japan, Korea, New Zealand, China (virtual), the Philippines, India, and Singapore spoke and participated in panel discussions at GEMM Asia.

The first-of-its-kind GEMM Asia summit provided a critical platform to discuss the urgent crises facing mega-cities in Asia. Fossil fuel emissions from cities, a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, result in increased incidences of severe weather– including record-breaking extreme temperatures, which are particularly life-threatening to city residents due to urban heat island effects. These fossil fuel emissions also create hazardous air pollution levels in cities, causing increased rates of asthma, emphysema, and cardiac disease – resulting in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.

“This is the start of our conversation towards implementing solutions to Asian region-specific climate and environmental challenges. I’m confident and hopeful that the GEMM Asia will play a critical role for us to move forward,” said Tomohiro Oda, GEMM Asia Chair and Senior Scientist at Universities Space Research Association.

GEMM Asia drew a unique mix of scientists, technologists and policymakers from across the continent—representing academia, industry and government—to Singapore. “The summit’s success was that a wide variety of renowned experts from Asia, scientists, engineers, technologists, business and industry, and social policy scientists and practitioners, gathered in the same room and had engaging discussions on various critical climate and environmental issues,” according to Oda.

Government officials at the meeting expressed an urgent appeal to attending scientists to provide detailed data to guide the creation of their policies designed to improve the quality of life of city residents by reducing the levels of hazardous air and water pollutants and mitigating the impact of climate change.

 “We are excited to have brought such a wide-reaching group of experts in science, technology and policy to NUS to engage in these important discussions,” said Jolene Lin, NUS Faculty of Law professor, GEMM Asia host and expert in climate law. “The work of scientists in tracking the issues facing our environment plays a critical role in improving legal capacity to address pressing environmental challenges including climate change and water pollution."

The GEMM Initiative has established centers in North America, New Zealand, Scotland and the Canadian Arctic, with each center focusing on local issues from urban air quality to coastal water usage. GEMM Asia sparked discussion of new GEMM Centers and partnerships throughout Asia that can address the challenges unique to each city and country.

 “The GEMM Initiative continues to move closer to its goal of being a truly global network of institutions working toward a common mission of mitigating environmental harm on local levels,” said Tom Baer, GEMM Committee chair and member of the organizing committee. “We are hopeful that the discussions at this summit continue to open up new avenues for GEMM to build partnerships with institutions across Asia.”

The GEMM Asia summit was recorded and can be viewed on the GEMM Initiative website. The GEMM Asia meeting summary and the presentations will also be made available on the GEMM Initiative website.

About GEMM
Launched in September 2018, the GEMM Initiative is seeking to expand our network of regional centers and is convening meetings and workshops worldwide. If you are interested in the GEMM Initiative, please contact David Lang ( or Daniel Klingenberg ( on Optica’s Global Policy and Affairs team to engage.

About AGU

AGU ( supports 130,000 enthusiasts to experts worldwide in Earth and space sciences. Through broad and inclusive partnerships, we advance discovery and solution science that accelerate knowledge and create solutions that are ethical, unbiased and respectful of communities and their values. Our programs include serving as a scholarly publisher, convening virtual and in-person events and providing career support. We live our values in everything we do, such as our net zero energy renovated building in Washington, D.C. and our Ethics and Equity Center, which fosters a diverse and inclusive geoscience community to ensure responsible conduct.

About Optica

Optica, Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, is the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica's renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement. Discover more at:

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