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LCQ1: Air quality objectives

     Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     With regard to the updating of the air quality objectives ("AQOs"), will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that it had been stated in the Policy Address published in October 2009 (i.e. more than a year ago) that the Chief Secretary for Administration was coordinating the work on reviewing and updating the AQOs, of the latest progress of such work; and

(b) since there have been comments that for almost 25 years the Government has never updated the AQOs which were promulgated in 1987, thus failing to respond to the long-standing aspiration of the community, whether the Government will consider requiring the politically appointed officials concerned to assume the political responsibility for this?



(a) It has always been the SAR Government's key mission and policy objective to improve our air quality, thereby enhancing protection of public health. The Chief Secretary for Administration has been giving advice and steers on policies relating to the improvement of Hong Kong's air quality, especially those that cut across different policy areas. He also chairs high-level meetings to coordinate the work of the concerned bureaux and departments in taking forward various air quality improvement measures.

     In updating the AQOs, it is also important to formulate additional measures to improve the air quality of Hong Kong for achieving the proposed new AQOs. The two are closely connected and equally important in the long-term strategy to improve Hong Kong's air quality. After completing the public consultation on the AQOs Review, the Government reported the findings of the consultation to LegCo's Panel on Environmental Affairs in June 2010, and advised the Panel's Subcommittee on Improving Air Quality in July of the same year on the key considerations in taking forward the recommended air quality improvement measures and the progress made on those measures for which concrete implementation programmes have been drawn up.

     The air quality improvement measures encompass a wide range of issues and cut across a number of policy areas. Many of them are controversial and complicated. Some typical examples are the fuel mix for the power sector, bus route rationalisation, early retirement of old and polluting vehicles, low emission zones, etc. The Government needs to analyse in detail the different views collected and assess their impacts on the relevant policy issues in order to fully consider and coordinate the implementation of the recommended measures.

     To bring early improvement to our air quality, we are endeavouring to introduce those improvement measures that have been recommended for achieving the new AQOs and are already supported or likely supported by the community, including:
- maximising the use of the existing natural gas-fired generation units by the two power companies; thereby increasing the share of natural gas in local electricity generation to about 50%; and to prioritise the use of those coal-fired generation units equipped or retrofitted with air pollution control equipment. Implementation of these measures will further tighten the existing emission caps of the power sector by about 30 to 50% from 2015 onward;
- introducing relevant regulations to promote energy efficiency for electrical appliances and buildings;

- proposing emission control for non-road mobile sources;

- mandating idling vehicles to stop their engines;

- introducing a subsidy to encourage early replacement of Euro II diesel commercial vehicles with new ones;

- carrying out a trial of and subsidising the retrofit of "Selective Catalytic Reduction" devices on franchised buses to reduce their emissions;

- designating pilot Low Emission Zones at busy corridors;

- setting up a Pilot Green Transport Fund to encourage the introduction of innovative transport technology;

- preparing a proposal to strengthen the control of emissions from petrol and LPG vehicles; and

- providing tax incentives to encourage use of environment-friendly vehicles and waiving First Registration Tax for electric vehicles.

     In addition, the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Vice Governor of Guangdong Province jointly chair regular working meetings to oversee the cooperation of the two sides in improving the air quality in Pearl River Delta (PRD) region. In 2002, both sides reached a consensus to reduce emissions of major air pollutants by 20% to 55% by 2010. To achieve the 2010 emission reduction targets, the two sides have drawn up and worked in earnest to implement the Regional Air Quality Management Plan. The emission reduction measures under the Plan focus on power plants, motor vehicles and the more polluting industrial processes. To improve regional air quality, the two sides also launched a five-year Cleaner Production Partnership Program in 2008 to encourage and facilitate Hong Kong-owned factories operating in the PRD region to adopt cleaner production technologies and practices so as to help reduce pollutant emissions and energy consumption, thereby contributing to better regional air quality.

     Our air quality monitoring data have revealed that the emission reduction measures for Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta region are making progressive improvements. From 1997 to 2009, our emissions of the four major pollutants reduced significantly from 24% to 57%. For the period from 2005 to 2010, our ambient concentration levels of sulphur dioxide and respirable suspended particulates reduced by 45% and 18% respectively; the number of hours of reduced visibility recorded by Hong Kong Observatory dropped by 18%. In the same period, roadside concentrations of sulphur dioxide fell by 55%, respirable suspended particulates by 20%, and nitrogen oxides by 11%.  

     However, in the same period, our roadside concentration of nitrogen dioxide increased by 22% leading to frequent occurrence of "very high" roadside Air Pollution Index. Tackling this nitrogen dioxide pollution problem is one of our priorities. As mentioned above, we will introduce a number of targeted control measures to address this roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution problem, including retrofitting franchised buses with "Selective Catalytic Reduction" devices, setting up pilot low emission zones, strengthening emission control for petrol and LPG vehicles, etc. We expect the roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution problem will improve significantly after implementation of these measures.
(b) On updating the Air Quality Objectives, as noted in part (a) above, we are now carefully studying the views collected during the public consultation and assessing the impacts on relevant policy areas in order to map out the best way to update the AQOs and implement the air quality improvement measures that is acceptable to all sectors of the community. We will endeavour to complete the relevant work as soon as possible and seek the views of LegCo's Panel on Environmental Affairs. At the same time, we will work closely with the concerned bureaux and departments and other stakeholders to implement further emission control measures to bring early improvement to our air quality.        

     I will do my utmost in pursuit of better air quality for Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:35


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