Press Release: Tsang Fails to Address Improving Air Quality, Ignores Growing Community and Global Health Concerns

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, failed the test he set himself to focus on an “overall strategic direction”, “targets for different stages”, “guiding principles” and establishment of “specific policies initiatives” for environmental protection. Tsang put forward a few ideas but failed to provide a strategy even though he acknowledged air pollution was a serious problem.
 
Civic Exchange believes the Chief Executive should have stated the goal is to improve Hong Kong’s outdoor air quality to the point where pollution no longer poses a significant risk to human health as it does at present. Unfortunately, the government has consistently refused to link air pollution and public health.
 
Civic Exchange’s CEO, Christine Loh noted: “Mr Tsang is in a unique position to make changes that will benefit Hong Kong for years to come. Right now, people are getting sick and business confidence is eroding due to this fixable dirty air crisis. If the Chief Executive chose to act swiftly, he could end a decade of pollution, dangerous air and filthy skies, leaving a legacy of healthier, cleaner air that we all can breathe”.
 
Civic Exchange calls on the Chief Executive to adopt the following:
 
Recommended Air Management Plan for Donald Tsang:
 
Concurrent Efforts on Four Fronts
1. Sharpen Policy Tools:
A. Set a new Energy Policy (2007-2008) to focus on public health, worker productivity, economic growth, energy efficiency and conservation, and climate change; as well as delivering electricity reliably, safely, and at reasonable prices.
• Use public procurement to promote energy efficiency (2007 onwards) in government purchasing of everything from goods and materials to services.
• Revise the Scheme of Control (2007-2008) to reward the electric utilities for helping to cut customers’ bills through energy efficiency and demand-side management.
• Create a new post of Minister for Energy (2007), whose role is to make Hong Kong more energy-efficient and to coordinate the efforts of other bureaux, departments and advisory committees to attain this goal.
• Involve District Councils (2007 onwards) in finding ways to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency on a district basis.
 
B. Tighten Air Quality Objectives (2007) so that they protect public health.
• Re-calibrate the Air Pollution Index accordingly (2007).
• Put in place Air Pollution Alerts (2007) for poor-quality days to help residents take appropriate action.
 
2. Take a Comprehensive Approach:
A. Reduce Local Air Pollution
Power Generation
• Extend emissions caps to Lamma Power Station (2006).
• Articulate a long-term fuel mix policy (2006-2007).
• Secure LNG supply for Hong Kong in the foreseeable future (2007).
• Explore emissions trading further before implementation (2006-2007).
 
Vehicular Transportation – General Measures
• Devise an overarching strategy for cleaner vehicles and fuels (2007).
• Improve planning and urban design (2007-2008) to reduce ‘street canyon effect’.
• Legislate to stop idling engines (2007-2008).
• Set license renewal charges based on the amount of emissions from different types of ehicles (2007 Budget).
• Exempt first registration charge on the basis of the level of emissions (2007 Budget).
• Devise an electronic road-pricing scheme (2008-2009).
• Declare Hong Kong a Low Emission Zone (2010) to get pre-Euro and Euro I vehicles off the road and to have Euro III or better vehicles on the road by 2012.
 
Vehicular Transportation – Specific Measures
Franchise Buses
• Impose emissions caps on bus companies (2008-2009).
• Encourage replacement of pre-Euro and Euro I buses (by 2010) by implementation of a Low Emissions Zone.
 
Vehicular Fuels
• Facilitate adoption and use of biodiesel and ethanol (2007).
• Offer discounts to cross-border vehicles that refuel at the border (2008).
 
Railway-Subway Expansion
• Expedite construction of new rail lines such as the South Island Line, North Island Line, Shatin-Central Line and Northern Link (from 2007).
 
Shipping and Port Operations
• Reduce vessel speed within the harbour (2006).
• Promote the use of lower-sulphur fuels on vessels’ propulsion and auxiliary engines within the harbour (2007).
• Promote the use of latest technology in emission abatement (2007 onwards).
• Provide shore-side power for ships docking at terminals (start preparation in 2007).
• Promote the use of emissions control technology on port equipment (start preparation in 2007).
• Consider discounts in port fees and tariffs; berthing priority; and awards; as well as providing financial grants for retrofitting, to drive change (2007-2008).
• Ratify Annex VI of MARPOL Convention so that Hong Kong can apply for its port to be a Sulphur Emission Control Area (2006-2007).
 
Airport Operations
• Ask the Airport Authority to explore how airport operations can reduce emissions and be more energy-efficient.
 
B. Reduce Regional Air Pollution
Focus on manufacturing
• Facilitate the supply of cleaner fuels for use by plants’ generators; starting by working with Shenzhen and Dongguan authorities (2007).
• Extend this clean-fuel effort to other parts of the PRD (2008 onwards).
 
Focus on Shenzhen ports, shipping and logistics
• Collaborate with PRD authorities to develop a Regional Green Port Policy (start preparation in 2008-2009).
• Collaborate with Guangdong to request the Central People’s Government to ratify Annex VI of he MARPOL Convention so that the entire waters of the PRD can be declared a Sulphur mission Control Area (start preparation by 2009-2010).
 
Improve regional air quality management
• Allow access to real-time air quality data of each pollutant from each of the local/regional air monitoring stations (2007).
• Fund joint HK-Macau-PRD air quality research and collaboration to increase air quality management capacity, with a view to setting up a Regional Air Resources Board (by 2012).
 
3. Play a Pro-active Role to Facilitate Industries to Reduce Emissions (2007-2008):
• Invite and facilitate various sectors (power generation, transport, manufacturing, port and airport operations and logistics, design and construction, etc.) to explore how they can become more energy efficient and reduce emissions.
 
4. Join National and International Efforts (2006 onwards):
• Join the Chinese national team in attending international climate change meetings. Explore how Hong Kong, as a financial centre, can play a role in developing and financing renewable energy, clean coal technology, carbon capture technology and Clean Development Mechanism projects, with a special focus in South China.
• Help safeguard national treasures threatened by air pollution, e.g. Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang.
• Join the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) to network with other cities to help reduce air emissions, including carbon dioxide.
• Join the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group and join them in using collective influence to reduce carbon emissions.