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Welcoming remarks by SEN at Better Air Quality 2012 conference (English only) (with photos)

     Following is the full text of the welcoming remarks by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, at the Better Air Quality 2012 conference this morning (December 5):

Director Li, Robert, Sophie, Christian, Professor Tong, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here to welcome all of you to Hong Kong to attend this conference on behalf of the Hong Kong Government. It is the second time for Hong Kong to host this Better Air Quality (BAQ) conference. Last time it was in 2002, which was 10 years ago, co-organised by the Clean Air Initiative and the Hong Kong Government. This time, we welcome the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong to join the league to co-organise this event. As mentioned by Professor Tong, partnership is very important and it is also important to have regional and international co-operation on this very important topic.

     I have been in this post since July 1 this year and am quite new to this post. But I, together with my partner, Ms Christine Loh, am placing air quality as the top-most policy area and priority. It is very important for Hong Kong to improve this area for public health.

     This conference's topic, "Growing Cities, Healthy Cities", is very important. While we are having a growing economy, growing population and growing infrastructure, we are also facing growing aspirations for better health and for better living quality. While Sophie's scoreboard talked about standards, capacity and policy, I can tell you that Hong Kong is going to implement our new Air Quality Objectives very soon. We are setting the bar higher, closer to the World Health Organization's (WHO) air quality guidelines (AQG) and interim targets. It will become effective in 2014, and we are also going to upgrade it every five years so that we can get closer to the WHO's AQG soon. Our Chief Executive here in Hong Kong, in his first address to the Legislative Council earlier last month, clearly stated that air quality is our priority for public health. So we will launch our clean air policy taking public health into account closely.
     Before I took up this post, I was an architect researching green cities and green buildings. In 2003, Hong Kong faced the outbreak of SARS that was a crisis in Hong Kong. But Hong Kong took that as an opportunity to invest in research about how the city, given its high density, can improve air ventilation in the urban areas. So I think, similarly for air quality, we have room for improvement, through building up our infrastructure and also to tighten our policies.

     I can cite a few examples on infrastructure and capacity. Probably we are the only city in the world that has incentives for developers when they are building new developments in which they would have to have all car-parking spaces to be electric vehicles enabling, that means all new car-parking spaces in the new developments have to provide charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). So in Hong Kong in future, given our high density, we can be more supportive to a growing number of EVs.

     We are not only looking into private cars. Because Hong Kong is a walkable city with very good mass transit, we are going to focus on public transport. For instance, we have a Pilot Green Transport Fund supporting our bus companies to invest in innovative and clean buses in Hong Kong. Not only for new buses. We also retrofit the existing buses because they are a large number and replacement takes time. We are going to have a test on them and the test will be completed very soon so that we will install catalytic converters to upgrade the Euro II and Euro III buses to become Euro IV and Euro V standards in terms of emissions. So we can keep our dense urban area with heavy dependence on buses to become a cleaner area.

     Not only buses, we are also going to invest in marine transport. Hong Kong, with the harbour, has many ships and vessels passing through the city. We are having an incentive scheme to encourage the ocean-going vessels to use cleaner fuel when they are berthing in Hong Kong. We have incentive schemes, but they may not be enough. So we may have stronger policies with carrots and sticks. For instance, we are facing pollution from diesel commercial vehicles. They are a large number in an ageing fleet. Probably we will have stronger policies. On one hand, we will provide incentives to them so that they can be phased out sooner. At the same time, we will probably set a deadline for ageing diesel commercial vehicles so that we can, by a certain time, have cleaner air in Hong Kong.

     Partnership is very important, so we would like to learn through this kind of conference where we can share knowledge, expertise, policy and wisdom.

     To end, I would like to welcome all of you again and probably if the future BAQ conference is going to be held in Hong Kong and if you will come back to Hong Kong, probably we will see and feel better air in Hong Kong.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:35


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