None Too Soon: New Air Quality Standards for Hong Kong

By Christine Loh, published by Hong Kong Journal

After a long delay, Hong Kong seems about to take a major step to clean up air pollution and improve public health. In July, the government finally launched a long-awaited public consultation on the city’s air quality standards, peculiarly referred to as its Air Quality Objectives (AQO).

The Environment Bureau acknowledged that these new standards “should be set with a view to protecting public health”, as called for by experts and civil society groups. This point needs to be stressed because Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO) is oddly framed. Officially, the AQOs are not explicitly drafted to protect human or environmental health but somewhat vaguely “to promote the conservation and the best use of air in the public interest”1—even though this October, in normal times a period of sunny skies and cooler weather, has brought Hong Kong near-record levels of air pollution.