Think-tank unveils vision for cleaner air

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2006, 12:00am

Civic Exchange attacks lack of urgency in government's approach to pollution

An independent think-tank yesterday unveiled an air-quality management plan that it claims is more comprehensive than the government's model and could make significant progress in two to seven years.

Civic Exchange and its research collaborators from the University of Science and Technology criticised the government for failing to recognise air pollution as a serious and urgent public health issue.

They blamed this lack of urgency for the slow progress in tackling air quality issues, which they say should be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

Most of the measures in the plan have been implemented with success in other parts of the world. They cover energy and fuel, road transport, manufacturing and the shipping sector, and call for tighter national and international co-operation on climate and air issues.

In particular, Civic Exchange proposed turning Hong Kong into a low-emission zone by 2010. It suggested that cars meeting only Euro II environmental standards and older vehicles be banned from the city or incur a high daily penalty.

The plan also calls for a clear energy policy incorporating a desirable fuel mix, an environmentally friendly port policy that reduces emissions from shipping and port-related facilities, and helps manufacturing bases in Shenzhen and Dongguan source clean fuel.

It is expected most of the measures could be ready for implementation in two years, and air quality improvements could be seen in the following five years.

'We are not saying the government hasn't done anything,' said Civic Exchange's chief executive officer, Christine Loh Kung-wai.

The group said it had yet to calculate the costs of its proposed measures because it was more important to recognise the cost of air pollution to public health. The group has already calculated the loss from air pollution at HK$20 billion.

Alexis Lau Kai-hon, of the University of Science and Technology, said there was no need to prioritise the measures as it was vital to do all the city could to address the problem.

On international efforts, Ms Loh, who is also a member of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing board, said it was time for the city to consider its financial sector's role in carbon trading and clean development mechanisms. She said she had requested the issue be put on the agenda for the three-year strategic development plan of the exchange.

The think-tank's air-quality management plan will be submitted to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as a reference for his policy address next month. A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department reiterated that it had been working on various fronts to address air pollution.