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LCQ4: Reduction in emission of air pollutants in the PRD region

    Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and an oral reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (January 30):


     In April 2002, the Governments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Guangdong Province reached a consensus to reduce, in their best endeavours, the emissions of four air pollutants by 20% to 55% in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) Region by 2010, using 1997 as the base year.  However, according to the report on the mid-term review published this month, the actual pollutant emissions in the PRD Economic Zone in 1997 and the economic growth of both sides in the period far exceeded the estimations in 2002.  As a result, the actual emission levels of three pollutants, namely, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates, will still exceed the original targets by 38%, 40% and 89% respectively, even with the additional control measures to be introduced by the Governments of both sides.  Public expectation of the blue sky returning in 2010 may fall through.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) when the authorities became aware that the actual pollutant emissions in 1997 had been underestimated, the relevant details and who should be held responsible; why the relevant figures were not published until five years later; and whether any assessment has been made to see if the HKSAR Government has misled the public by never mentioning that the 1997 estimations were inaccurate;

(b) apart from implementing the additional control measures stated in the aforesaid report to achieve the relevant pollutant reduction rates, whether the Governments of both sides will take other measures to ensure that the actual pollutant emissions in 2010 will not exceed the original projections; and

(c) of the current number of factories operated by Hong Kong enterprises in the PRD Economic Zone, the total amount of air pollutants emitted from these factories each year, and the measures the HKSAR Government has put in place to encourage these Hong Kong enterprises to meet their obligations to reduce emissions?


Madam President,

     To improve regional air quality, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Guangdong Provincial Government reached a consensus in April 2002 to reduce, on a best endeavour basis, emissions of four major air pollutants, namely, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), respirable suspended particulates (RSP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) by 40%, 20%, 55% and 55% respectively in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) Region by the year 2010, using 1997 as the base year.  To meet the above targets, the two Governments have drawn up a host of emission control measures under the PRD Regional Air Quality Management Plan (the Management Plan).  Progress in implementing these measures is reported regularly to the Hong Kong/Guangdong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection (JWGSDEP).

     To assess the effectiveness of the various control measures contained in the Management Plan, in 2006 both sides jointly initiated a Mid-term Review, which was completed in December 2007.  The Mid-term Review seeks to assess the effectiveness of the existing emission reduction measures, examine the emission trends of the four major air pollutants in the region, project the levels of emission and the extent to which the reduction targets could be achieved by 2010, and adopt timely control measures.  Since Guangdong and HKSAR used to adopt different basis and methodologies for making estimations on pollutant emission level, both sides jointly compiled the Handbook on Preparation of Air Emission Inventory in the Pearl River Delta Region (the Handbook) for the purpose of compiling the emission inventory of 2003 and 2010.  The Handbook ensures that estimations on emission levels are made by Hong Kong and Guangdong on the same scientific and objective basis.

     Taking account of the fact that the emission reduction targets mutually agreed by Hong Kong and Guangdong were set in percentage terms using 1997 as the base year, it was necessary to recalculate the historical emission inventory (including that for the base year) following adoption of the Handbook.  This is consistent with established international practices (e.g. the Guidelines for Estimating and Reporting Emission Data enacted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in respect of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution) as well as practices in other countries.  It serves to provide a consistent and common basis for comparing emission levels over the years.
     In light of the above, the 1997 emission inventory was recalculated in accordance with the methodology set out in the Handbook with a view to arriving at an estimation that better reflect the situation at that time.  The estimation methodology enshrined in the Handbook provides for a wider and more comprehensive coverage regarding pollutant emission sources, and more accurate information was used for making estimations.  For instance, better estimations in respect of the emission levels of the power sector and industrial sector have been derived by adopting fuel consumption based methodology according to the Handbook, instead of relying on the self-reporting mechanism adopted in previous assessment.  Emission sources which had not been covered in the past, including industries such as cement making, ceramic production and mining have been added. Other sources, such as particulate emission from wear of vehicle tyres, brakes and road surface etc have also been added under the Handbook.

     On the first part of the Hon CHOY So-yuk's question, recalculation of the emission inventory of the base year is necessary because of the joint adoption by Hong Kong and Guangdong of the Handbook as the common and objective basis for assessment.  The Handbook was compiled in 2005 and used for the Mid-term Review exercise which commenced in 2006.  In this regard, the Administration informed the Panel on Environmental Affairs in October 2004 about the compilation of the Handbook.   The recalculation process had been carried out in line with international practices. On completion of the Mid-term Review in December 2007, we have announced the report and its findings in January 2008.
     I would like to stress that whilst the emission inventory in 1997 was recalculated, there has been no change to the emission reduction targets as agreed in 2002.  The reduction targets in respect of the four major air pollutants were set in percentage terms.  The regional air quality will be correspondingly improved, when compared with 1997, so long as the required percentage emission reduction targets are met by both sides in 2010.  At the same time, HKSAR will not relax the volume of emission reduction that have already been specified for the relevant pollutants.

     Turning to the second part of the question, the Mid-term Review found that upon implementation of the current and committed emission reduction measures under the Management Plan, the HKSAR should be able to meet the mutually agreed emission reduction targets by 2010.  To ensure that we could fully achieve the agreed reduction targets, we are putting in place a series of additional control measures.

     For instance, regarding emissions from the two power companies, we have set out incentive and penalty arrangements in the new Scheme of Control Agreements concluded with the companies.  We are also working to introduce amendments to the Air Pollution Control Ordinance to stipulate the emission caps for power plants in 2010 and beyond.

     To reduce emissions from vehicles, we offered duty concession for Euro V diesel starting from December 1, 2007.  In addition, we are consulting the public on the proposal to introduce a statutory ban on idling vehicles with running engines.  We are also planning to consult relevant stakeholders on a proposal to strengthen the control of emissions from petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles in early this year.  

     To promote energy efficiency and conservation, we have commenced public consultation on the implementation of the Building Energy Codes.  Furthermore, we are working to introduce legislative amendments to mandate the use of ultra-low sulphur diesel in industrial and commercial processes in mid-2008.  We are confident that following the adoption of the various committed and planned control measures, Hong Kong should be able to meet the 2010 emission reduction targets.

     As for the PRD Economic Zone, with its rapid socio-economic developments which well exceeded the original estimates, the Guangdong Provincial Government has agreed to proactively implement the existing control measures, and carry out additional measures as recommended in the Review Report. These measures have been listed in the document submitted to the Environmental Affairs Panel earlier. With such steps taken, it is projected that the emission reduction targets could be achieved by 2010.  These additional measures include requiring new coal-fired power plants to install NOx removal equipment, tightening emission standards for boilers for industrial and commercial uses, strengthening cleaner production requirements for industrial sectors that produce VOC-containing products, setting limits on the VOC contents of consumer products, and taking steps to enhance emission control of local vessels, etc.  

     Finally, the Hon CHOY asked about the measures being pursued by THE Government in promoting Hong Kong-owned enterprises in the PRD Economic Zone in undertaking emission reduction measures.  It is estimated that at present there are some 56,000 Hong Kong-owned factories in the PRD Economic Zone.  The industry sector accounts for around 10% to 67% of the total pollutant emissions in the PRD Economic Zone.  The Guangdong authorities have not made any separate assessment of the emissions generated from Hong Kong-owned factories.  In any case, the Government has taken proactive measures to provide funding of some HK$93 million to the Hong Kong Productivity Council to launch a five-year Cleaner Production Partnership Programme which aims to promote and facilitate adoption of cleaner production technologies and practices.   We hope that successful implementation of this programme will foster the development of a sustainable culture of cleaner production and improvement of air quality in the region.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Issued at HKT 17:01


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