CY Leung and Hong Kong air pollution

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    After lambasting Donald Tsang for not combating, and even defending, air pollution – can see how CY Leung administration performs in this regard. Perhaps promising signs to start with; this from SCM Post Lai See:

    Clearer air at the end of the tunnel at last

    Howard Winn

    For someone who has been bellyaching about Hong Kong's air quality for the past 18 months, and for the NGOs that have been at it for much longer, it was music to the ears to hear the environment secretary say air quality – roadside pollution, in particular – was to be a priority for his department. It's the best news on the environment front for the past eight years, or however long do-next-to-nothing Donald Tsang was chief executive.

    But the most interesting point was that the government acknowledged, for the first time, the connection between air quality and public health. This is an enormous step, since it means that dealing with our foul air becomes not just a matter of cost but also a question of benefits in the form of better public health, a reduced number of avoidable deaths, lower occupancy of hospital beds and fewer visits to doctors. It's believed the bureau intends to announce initial proposals for dealing with roadside pollution ahead of the chief executive's policy speech in January. If C.Y. Leung's administration delivers on this and achieves nothing else, it will still be light years ahead of the previous administration.


    SCM Post editorial today covers one issue for CY's administration to tackle:

    From today shipowners and operators can claim a 50 per cent reduction in port facility and light dues for switching to low-sulphur diesel while their vessels are docked in Hong Kong…

    Making it compulsory to use low-sulphur fuel would have been a better option, as other major ports have found…

    Given the co-operation so far of owners, operators and agents, it seems scarcely believable that the new scheme could be scuttled by government red tape…

    Untangling the red tape seems like a case that should be delegated to new environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai, founder of think tank Civic Exchange, which conducted the five-year study of health effects jointly with the University of Hong Kong and the University of Science and Technology. Hopefully she can convince the government to make the fuel switch mandatory rather than risk losing shipowners' co-operation with a half-baked solution.



    Here's some reason to hope for stronger action vs air pollution now CY Leung is at the helm – with seemingly stronger team to work on environment – in letter to SCM Post, appearing 29 Sept, on administration's views n aims.

    Officials realise dirty engines need to be replaced

    In response to Peter Inglis' letter ("Chief executive must have courage to deal with our polluted air", September 26), I wish to affirm this administration's commitment to improve air quality in Hong Kong.

    I also wish to affirm that the protection of public health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air quality improvement measures.

    In the coming months, the public will see a number of major proposals and initiatives aimed at dealing with specific air quality problems, the most important of which is roadside pollution arising from vehicles, especially diesel commercial vehicles. The reason these sources of pollution present the biggest problem is because they have the greatest day-to-day impact on public health. Quite simply, dirty engines need to be replaced.

    Emissions from ships also cause harm. A number of leading shipping companies signed the voluntary at berth fuel-switching Fair Winds Charter that came into operation in 2011. While the government has complemented their efforts by reducing port dues for those vessels switching to using cleaner fuel, the administration agrees with the signatories that regulation is the way forward. We will work hard to make this happen.

    We will further tighten the emission allowances for power plants, as well as consider changing Hong Kong's fuel mix for electricity generation to significantly lower or even eliminate coal usage.

    We will be engaging with experts, stakeholders and community groups shortly to kick-start a discussion on what may be the right fuel mix for Hong Kong going forward in the next decade.

    Another vital task is for Hong Kong and Guangdong to collaborate to reduce air pollution. Only by sustained regional efforts will we improve ambient air quality. We are working on specific emissions reduction targets by 2020 and these will be announced shortly.

    There are other key areas we are working on right now, such as revising the air pollution index system, which we will put forward in the coming half year.

    Mr Inglis acknowledges that there is a cost involved in cleaning up. I agree with him that higher mortality and more illnesses from air pollution are also costly. However, the debate about how the pollution reduction costs are to be shared is not easy, even for a wealthy city like ours.

    We will need public support on the many measures in the pipeline.

    Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment"


    More fine words from Christine Loh, in S China Morning Post:

    First, Hong Kong roads must be rid of polluting vehicles

    Comment›Insight & Opinion  30 Jan 2013

    Christine Loh

    Improving Hong Kong's air quality is a top priority because pollution affects public health. Measures must be strong enough to make a difference.

    Most of our daily exposure to air pollution occurs at the roadside. In Hong Kong's dense urban areas, thousands of people are out and about every minute of every day. Many people work at the roadside or their place of business opens onto a busy road. And the windows of homes on the lower floors of a building open not far from these busy thoroughfares.

    Moreover, our roads are relatively narrow, with tall buildings on either side. As a result, emissions from vehicle exhausts become trapped. The pollution in these "street canyons" cannot disperse easily, making it a daily health threat.

    Hence, our near-term goal is to reduce roadside air pollution and our first targets are high-emission vehicles – diesel commercial vehicles (such as trucks, school buses and tourist coaches), franchised buses, LPG taxis and minibuses.

    The most worrying roadside pollutant are the particulates – PM10 and PM2.5 (or particles that are 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter or less, respectively) – that arise from combustion in diesel engines. They can penetrate deeply into lung tissues, causing cardiopulmonary disease. The World Health Organisation recently confirmed that diesel particulates are also carcinogenic.

    The plan is to get these 88,000 polluting vehicles off our roads by a certain time – pre-Euro and Euro I vehicles by January 2016; Euro II vehicles by January 2017; and the rest by January 2019.

    Another problem we face is the unusually high levels of nitrogen dioxide at our roadsides. There are two main causes – franchised buses and LPG vehicles.

    While older franchised buses had particulate filters fitted to them some years ago, their nitrogen dioxide levels need to be lowered if we are to reduce the overall pollution. Fitting a selective catalytic reduction device on Euro II and III buses would enable them to perform like Euro IV and V models. Bus fleets in Europe have done similar retrofits successfully.

    The Hong Kong government is proposing to fund the capital cost of these devices and for the franchisees to absorb the operating and maintenance costs. …

    There are currently about 18,000 taxis and 4,350 minibuses, 66 per cent of which are powered by LPG. For vehicles such as these, which cover a high mileage, the catalytic converter needs to be replaced about every 18 months. This scheme will cost HK$150 million and should be completed by 2014.

    The above three schemes are end-of-pipe solutions. Other solutions are also needed. For example, the chief executive's policy address called for bus routes to be rationalised. A successful reorganisation of bus numbers, routes and networks should result in shorter travel time, easy interchanges and good service, which will also improve roadside air quality.

    Yet other solutions require planning changes, such as creating low-emission and pedestrian-only zones. We also have a series of measures to reduce shipping emissions. Hong Kong is a busy port for large oceangoing vessels, river trade vessels as well as local craft, such as ferries and hydrofoils.

    Together, their emissions of the three major air pollutants – that is, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates – now exceed those of our power plants.

    We accept that much more needs to be done, and will continue to strive to reduce the public health risk.

    Source URL (retrieved on Jan 30th 2013, 6:14am):


    SCMP article, from 11 Feb 2014, includes:

    Hong Kong's air quality to 'drastically improve' within five years, says Christine Loh

    Environment undersecretary promises ambitious targets will be met, including banning all vehicles that don't meet emissions standards by 2016, as roadside pollution gets worse

    Hong Kong’s air quality will show “drastic improvements” over the next four or five years and start to see “measurable results” in the second half of this year, undersecretary for environment Christine Loh Kung-wai says.

    In the most confident pledge made by a senior government official about the fight against pollution, Loh told the South China Morning Post that the city is well on target to achieve landmark goals – such as a 20 per cent reduction in sulphur emissions – before 2020.

    “There’s no question – we will meet these objectives,” said Loh, striking a markedly more positive tone than when she last spoke [1] to the Post in September. “Our whole vehicle fleet will be dramatically cleaner in about four or five years time.”

    Recent government data indicates that roadside air quality is worsening, but the undersecretary said the situation will improve….

    An HK$11.4 billion initiative to replace some 82,000 old commercial diesel vehicles was finally approved by the Legco financial committee last month and is to begin next month.

    A scheme to replace catalytic convertors – devices which covert harmful emissions into less harmful ones – on 20,000 taxis and public light buses powered by LPG is expected to be approved by the summer, while a plan to retrofit some 1,400 franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices – which reduce harmful emissions – is also scheduled for legislative approval this year.

    Loh expects legislation for a mandatory fuel switch, which will force all ocean-going vessels berthing at Hong Kong to switch to a lower-sulphur fuel, to be passed by Legco before the summer recess and to go into effect by early next year.

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