A report released today by the Institute for the Environment at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Civic Exchange shows that local sources are the primary influence on Hong Kong’s air quality for 53% of the time, compared to 36% of the time for regional sources and the remaining 11% of the time is classified as low-pollution.
The study’s authors say these results are important because they show that Hong Kong can achieve significant control over its air pollution more often than not. Major improvements in air quality and public health on over half of the days in the year could be achieved through reduction of emissions from local vehicles, marine traffic and power plants.
The study examined air quality monitoring results, meteorological data and satellite images for 2006 to determine the dominant source of Hong Kong’s air pollution for each day of the year. This is the first time a time-based approach has been used to study local air pollution.
Previous studies, such as the 1999 government-sponsored joint study with Guangdong on regional air pollution, looked at the total quantity of pollution emitted regionally. That study found that Guangdong accounted for over 80% of regional emissions, which has led many to believe that there is little Hong Kong can do to address the growing air pollution problem.
“These results show that there is no reason for Hong Kong to feel debilitated when it comes to improving our air quality,” said Dr. Alexis Lau, the lead scientist who conducted the study. “The regional pollution is important and regional cooperation is key but there is a lot that is within our control.” He added, “More than 50% of the time, emissions from local sources dominate the air pollution in Hong Kong.”
Christine Loh, CEO of local think-tank Civic Exchange and report co-author, elaborated “Hong Kong now has no excuse not to take stronger, faster action to clean up its emissions,” Loh said. “There are some key steps that Hong Kong can take on its own to improve local air quality. For a start, we can adopt and enforce the World Health Organization’s (2006) global air quality guidelines and reverse the public health crisis Hong Kong faces today. Secondly we can develop a comprehensive energy policy today. We need to move from the current voluntary approach to emission reductions, and introduce some mandatory controls.” Loh noted that the major local pollution sources identified in the study were power, road transport and marine traffic. “We can deal with these sources through better policy and regulation,” said Loh. “We just need the political will to make it happen.”
Professor Anthony Hedley of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Hong Kong firmly (HKU) welcomed the report’s findings "This study demonstrates once again that cleaning up our air would bring direct health benefits for every man, woman and child in Hong Kong, now and far into the future."