• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 4:53pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

In Hong Kong, political will is the key to clean air

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 3:18am

We could do without the air pollution we have suffered this week, but it does serve to remind the administration of the declaration by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that the quality of the air we breathe is a core livelihood issue. Roadside readings in Central on Monday were so bad that everyone was advised to steer clear of areas with heavy traffic - not just those with breathing or heart problems. The last two days have brought no relief.

Contributing factors were light winds that failed to clear the air and, as usual, pollution originating on the mainland. But these underline how important it is for Hong Kong to strive for an acceptable living environment with concrete efforts to reduce home-grown pollution. It is self-evident that this has not been the case, since roadside pollution originates locally.

The government recently revealed a plan which anticipates new air-quality targets to be officially unveiled next year, and aims to meet them by 2020. It includes HK$10 billion in cash incentives to get the dirtiest commercial vehicles off our streets by 2019, and retrofitting 1,400 franchised buses with diesel emission controls. As a result, officials say, roadside pollution could be significantly lower in four to five years. The exception will be nitrogen dioxide, which is expected to still be double the new standard by 2020. Indeed, a high concentration of nitrogen dioxide is mainly responsible for this week's pollution.

The current administration has raised public expectations by vowing to do better than its predecessors. That will require political will to do what it takes. Environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai has said that more pedestrian-only areas or traffic diversions might be necessary to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions. For the sake of our health, officials should be prepared to look at any option, even from critics such as Friends of the Earth, which says they might get more value for HK$10 billion if they focused on the worst polluters - pre-Euro-standard, Euro-I and Euro-II vehicles - before tackling Euro-III.

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megafun
I would like to share a speech at City Hall, London, recently where Boris Johnson claimed that he wants to create the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London - in the hope of improving air quality and encouraging people to take up low emission vehicles.
"Creating the world's first big city ultra low emission zone has the potential to be a game changing moment in the quality of life of our great capital," he said.
"My vision is a central zone where almost all the vehicles running during working hours are either zero or low emission. This would deliver incredible benefits in air quality and stimulate the delivery and mass use of low emission technology."
Lets hope this paper will trnsmit this message to KS Wong whom seem to be doing not much, for all his green credentials!
mkhill
Why would the government give us back HKD36billion through scheme6000 and let us all breath this disgusting pollution. That money could have largely solved this problem. Spend the surplus on fixing problems that only the government can fix and stop wasting it on frivolous policies.
johnyuan
I recall when Hong Kong was thinking to buy those long buses I believe from a Scotch manufacturer, the publicity that I read in SCMP was besides the model could run well in Hong Kong’s narrow roads, it was pollution free. So after a decade, what happened? Are these buses now become one of the significant contributors to roadside air-pollution for their foul exhaust? Has Hong Kong been a sucker in taking up actually those unwanted model in Europe? China too, once was the end receiver of the old polluting buses from Hong Kong. Being poor, bagger has no choices. But not for Hong Kong – uncaring and greed?
megafun
KMB & other operators will not buy them (probably for lack of kick-backs). Nowadays alot of them electric buses play in London, allowing the air there to improve. Last month, the Mayor - Boris - said he plans on banning all cars from London, during daytime, unless they are low-emitters!

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