Targeted measures will improve Hong Kong air

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 4:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 5:11am

I would like to clarify the government's policy arising from your reports "HK's air 'will be much cleaner in five years'", "'Policy shift' needed to beat pollution at sea", and Tom Holland's "Even Hong Kong's best efforts may not help to clear our air" (February 12).

Our policy is to clean up local pollution, collaborate with Guangdong on dealing with regional air quality, and contribute to the national effort to fight air pollution. Hong Kong can do this because we have a good foundation in air science. We have also strengthened our capability in air quality and health through working with the World Health Organisation.

The greatest health threat arising from local air pollution is at roadside. This is why we are spending more than HK$11.4 billion on phasing out 82,000 pre-Euro 4 diesel commercial vehicles from March until 2019, retrofitting 1,400 franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices by 2016, and replacing catalytic converters for over 20,000 LPG-powered taxis and public light buses.

Your report was incorrect in saying the LPG programme "is expected to be approved by summer". When the scheme is completed by summer, we will see dramatic reduction in emissions from this particular fleet. Our overall vehicular fleet will be much cleaner when the other two schemes kick in.

We launched in September 2012 a three-year incentive programme to encourage ocean-going vessels to switch to cleaner fuel at berth in Hong Kong. In February, the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association and Hong Kong Shipowners Association also extended their voluntary Fair Winds Charter until year end. This should dovetail with legislation of mandatory fuel switching at berth by 2015.

Smaller local vessels will also use a cleaner fuel from April.

We target ships because they are now the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide in Hong Kong. Shipping emits more sulphur dioxide now than our power plants.

Our power plants will be cleaner still as Hong Kong decreases coal usage and increases natural gas use in electricity generation between now and 2019.

Holland says the above efforts may not help because China will continue to burn coal as its main energy source.

Emissions from Guangdong affect Hong Kong the most. Both places have agreed targets to reduce pollutant emissions by 2015 and 2020. We expect to meet them in light of all the efforts both sides are making. I have no doubt that this will improve air quality overall in Hong Kong.

Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment