Clean air options? Now, it's up to you

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2007, 12:00am

Public consultation on pollution launched

Proposals on improving air quality by a top advisory body are expected to be implemented one year after a public consultation on clean air, the environment minister said yesterday.

The Council for Sustainable Development yesterday launched a four-month public consultation on three areas - action to be taken on high air pollution days; energy conservation; and road pricing mechanisms.

Speaking after the launch ceremony, Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said the proposals were only suggestions and the public could voice their opinions.

Dr Liao said the Transport Department would conduct a study on the impact of road pricing on traffic flow. The study is expected to be finished this year.

Council vice-chairman Edgar Cheng Wai-kin said the council was focusing on road pricing and the two other areas because they were 'closely related to our daily lives'.

The council hopes about 100,000 people will respond to a 24-item questionnaire. The consultation ends on October 15.

Forums and workshops on an 'invitation and response document', released together with the questionnaire, will be held with concern groups and stakeholders from next week. The council was keeping an open mind on road pricing, members said yesterday.

Mr Cheng said they valued 'genuine exchanges' so the council can put forward recommendations based on the views collected.

Chandran Nair, convenor of the council's support group on better air quality, said the council did not have a 'pre-determined notion of what the policy [on road pricing] should be'.

The council had already acknowledged that road pricing was an 'economic instrument' to tackle air pollution.

'But does it have a fixed position as to how it should be transferred into policy? Not yet, because it wants to engage the community in a bottom-up way to discuss this and inform people of the difficult trade-offs,' Mr Nair said.

He said the issue of road pricing was controversial 'everywhere'.

'Everyone is talking about the London success story, but before the mayor of London, Ken Livingston, made it a policy he was the most unpopular person in the whole of the UK,' Mr Nair said.

'But he said 'I'm the mayor, I'm going to do this despite what the government thinks'.'

The questionnaire asks people how strongly they agree or disagree that road pricing should be part of government policy.

On air pollution alerts, Otto Poon Lok-to, chairman of its strategy sub-committee, said the issue was 'not so much about how many days [alerts] happen'.

'It is sending the signal to everyone in our community that we have a serious problem that affects the health of people,' he said.

The questionnaire asks people whether they prefer a colour-coding or a number-coding scheme, and how long of an advance notice should be given.

The council also wants public views on what they would be prepared to do to save energy.

It also is asking what things should be made mandatory, and the sorts of policies people would support to encourage energy efficiency.

'There is a lot of learning within the community, within policymakers.

'But we have to invest in the future now,' Mr Poon said.