Workshop on air pollution on 10 Jan 08

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    Update: I went to the conference, thought it excellent, with strong mix of experts, inc from mainland China, Thailand, UK, US; also packed with around 500 people. Were brainy exchanges, much underlying passion – most evident when in groups for discussing potential solutions.

    Only downsides being Secretary for the Environment Edward Lau appearing, nodding as some others talked [not the guy who said something re govt being little use here!], speaking and leaving without even taking a question; and near-absence of press.

    The Conference

    A one-day public forum to focus the air pollution debate on health-based facts and science. What policies do the government and the public need to adopt to protect public health for this and future generations? This event has been co-organized by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and Civic Exchange.

    Just emailed Christine Loh, chief exec of Civic Exchange. Including:

    I mentioned my site forum; there’s pollution forum; I’d be very happy to have posts on this, both basic info, also discussions. As mentioned, English and/or Chinese should be fine – ideally, I think, both together.

    Guy from Ove Arup [consultancy, looking at public views re HK’s moves towards new air quality objectives] was at one of my tables during discussions; I told him that believe we should adopt WHO guidelines, even though far away from these – I could respect doing this, but not a supposed World City adopting crummy objectives.

    US finding that no economic downsides found should be v important.

    Twice as likely to die from air pollution if live in public housing? – should be anger re this.

    I mentioned belief that need emotion here, more than facts; not so much over emotional delivery – a turn off, but hitting emotional buttons. Noted Prof [Alexis] Lau wanting help w getting message out; here is a key – facts alone don’t work in the essential public relations work.

    So maybe more language like dangerous air versus safe air – which also better reflects what issue’s about.

    If possible, people who are suffering, not just numbers [Prof Wong overheard me mentioning re this; was interested.]

    – reflecting on Article 23: surely wasn’t details of this that were important; I never really knew what these were, but like many people, I believed Article 23 would be a bad thing.

    Oh, and there’s also countering the government’s PR efforts – esp if they take a leaf out of Exxon-Mobil type tactics. Recently saying air pollution is being lowered a case in point: can make headline saying things improving, while burying key info that situation remains dire and improvements trivial or non-existent.


    Just sent this to Ove Arup, consultant looking at public opinion re HK’s new air quality objectives; you too can comment, by email to: [email protected]

    I wish to comment on Hong Kong’s moves towards new air quality objectives.

    Firstly, it is woeful that we have such antiquated air quality objectives; good that the objectives are to be revised.

    Then, as a "World City", Hong Kong has an obligation to have Air Quality Objectives that meet the best science based evidence, and put people’s health first.

    This means adopting the WHO’s most stringent guidelines.

    Sadly, this is not to say that we will then promptly achieve the objectives, but we will know the goals.

    Further, the objectives should be subject to regular (annual?) review, again based on the best international science.

    It may seem startling to aim for high standards – why not just shilly shally, set "Objectives" that suit our filthy air, and so are readily achieved, never mind the health of local people?

    But, as a "World City" we should aspire to the best.

    – also, sadly, in Hong Kong we have become accustomed to having a polluted environment. Local children surely think it’s normal that for much of the year the sun doesn’t set on the horizon, but fades into smog. Plus, our beaches too often fail to make the A grade; several seem stuck in dire condition.

    So, I doubt many people will be startled that there is a gulf between our air quality and our objectives – but at least we will all be aiming for air of a standard befitting a "World City" (once dubbed the "Pearl of the Orient" – a grubby pearl these days).

    While to adopt less stringent standards, to aim low: that would be shameful for our "World CIty", showing political expediency – and lack of political courage – trumping the importance of human health.

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