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LC: Speech by SEN on moving second reading of Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Bill 2013

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, on moving the second reading of the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Bill 2013 at the Legislative Council today (March 20):

Mr President,

     I move that the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Bill 2013 (the Bill) be read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is to update the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO) (Cap. 311) with effect from January 1, 2014.

     The current AQOs of Hong Kong have been in place since 1987. Following the release of new Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2006, the Government commissioned a consultancy study in 2007 on updating the AQOs and consulted the public on the recommendations in 2009. Having examined the consultation findings and formulated a range of air quality improvement measures, the Government announced in 2012 the adoption of the new AQOs with effect from 2014. The new AQOs are benchmarked against a combination of both interim and ultimate targets of the AQGs of WHO, and are broadly comparable to the air quality standards adopted in the European Union and the United States. We briefed the Subcommittee on Improving Air Quality of the Panel on Environmental Affairs on the plan in April 2012.

     To attain the new AQOs, we will take forward a comprehensive package of air quality improvement measures targeting at various key emission sources including power plants, vehicles and marine vessels. We also announced in November 2012 a joint emission reduction plan with Guangdong up to 2020. In the 2013 Policy Address, concrete proposals have been put forward for phasing out old diesel commercial vehicles and reducing emissions from marine vessels.

     Subject to the passage of the Bill by LegCo, the new AQOs will be used as benchmarks in assessing the air quality impact of relevant projects and processes in accordance with the APCO and the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) with effect from January 2014.

     Besides, the Bill provides a transitional arrangement for the projects which have already been issued with Environmental Permits (EP) before the commencement of the new AQOs. For these projects, an application for variation of EP lodged within 36 months of the commencement of the new AQOs will be considered on the basis of the old AQOs. This will preserve the integrity of the environmental impact assessment system and allow projects already granted EPs to, within a reasonable time, proceed without being affected by the updating of AQOs.

     Moreover, the Bill provides for the review of the AQOs by the Government at least once every five years, with a report to the Advisory Council on the Environment. This is our commitment to protecting public health and improving air quality, and the frequency of review is also in line with the international best practices. In conducting the review, we will examine the effectiveness of air quality improvement measures and the development of emission reduction technologies, and study the feasibility of tightening the AQOs. Our long-term goal is to achieve the ultimate targets set by the AQGs of WHO.

     Thank you, Mr President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:05


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