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  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 8:39am
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong’s air quality to ‘drastically improve’ within five years, says Christine Loh

Loh vows 'dramatic' results and says city is on target to achieve its goals, but warns pollution battle must include action on emissions at sea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:24am

Hong Kong's air quality will show "dramatic improvement" over the next five years, says undersecretary for the environment Christine Loh Kung-wai.

And she predicts that reductions in pollution should start being measured by the second half of this year

In her most confident pledge so far on the fight for cleaner air, Loh told the South China Morning Post the city is well on target to achieve landmark goals - such as a 20 per cent reduction in sulphur emissions - before 2020.

"There's no question - we will meet these objectives," Loh said.

"Our whole vehicle fleet will be dramatically cleaner in about four or five years … we will see a dramatic improvement in roadside [air quality]."

Recent government data indicates roadside air quality is getting worse, but she insisted the situation would improve.

Objectives set out in last year's seven-year air quality road map had already been met without much political resistance, she said. This was in stark contrast to stalled action on other environmental issues such as waste, energy and conservation.

Loh believes several more air quality measures will be endorsed by Legco before the summer. "We should be able to start measuring reductions by the second half of the year," she said.

A HK$11.4 billion initiative to replace about 82,000 old commercial diesel vehicles will start next month.

A scheme to replace catalytic converters - devices that reduce harmful emissions - on 20,000 taxis and public light buses powered by LPG is expected to be approved by summer, while a plan to retrofit about 1,400 franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices is also scheduled for approval this year.

"By 2016, all pre-Euro vehicles will be banned from the street," said Loh, in reference to the "Euro" emission standards introduced progressively by the European Union since 1992.

"Once we start running the scheme, we can see how we can incentivise vehicle owners to replace their vehicles earlier rather than later."

Loh said that the community would have to be "galvanised" for all the measures to succeed.

But tackling roadside pollution is not enough, Loh admitted. Maritime traffic is one of the city's biggest causes of toxic sulphur dioxide emissions.

In 2012, a study found 75 per cent of deaths linked to sulphur dioxide in the Pearl River Delta each year were Hongkongers.

Loh expects legislation for a mandatory fuel switch - which will force all ocean-going vessels berthing at Hong Kong to switch to a lower-sulphur fuel - to be passed in summer and to take effect by early next year.

This will be coupled with an initiative that would require smaller local ships to switch to a cleaner marine diesel, which Loh has pencilled in for April 1.

"We think, after the implementation of both measures, we will see an estimated 20 per cent drop in local sulphur dioxide emissions. This is really quite substantial."

Loh was pleased the much-criticised Air Pollution Index was replaced by the Air Quality Health Index in December. "We now have a much better health-based air quality index," she said.


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Well now we know that in 5 year Christine Lo will not have any more credibility. Hong Kong can do what ever it wants, but pollution from China continues to grow. Guangdong is building more steel mills and lots of coal-fired power stations with no better emission reduction technology than they have had in the past. You can reduce Hong Kong derived pollution to zero and you'll see that the continued growth in China-derived pollution will make it difficult to see any improvement much of the year.
I love Hong Kong and have been visiting from London 3 or 4 times a year since 1988. Sadly every year the air pollution is getting worse. Sometimes I find it difficult to breathe and on my last trip in early Jan I caught Laryngitis directly from the polluted air.
Only when the wind is blowing from the sea or the South is it pure and fresh. Then I can enjoy a clear view of the Peak from Kowloon!
I check the wind direction before each trip and dread the Northerly winds bringing all the ghastly pollution from the Mainland. This is the main culprit. I wish Christine well in her local efforts which may help a little, but the real solution lies in Beijing.
We have been suffering high levels of air pollution for years, so i do hope that the government will realize her pledge.
However, besides local measures, regional cooperation also plays a crucial part in combating problem because one of the main sources of air pollutants is the world factory mainland.
What a behind society HK is when considered to be a financial hub, but yet lack the basic knowledge to tackle the problem of pollution control from vehicle emissions- the major culprits in the foul air we breath.
The introduction of catalytic converters (in cars) is long overdue and it's not rocket science that such device was mandatory in ALL vehicles in America many decades ago that vastly reduces carbon monoxide & nitrogen oxides. A very affordable device that works wonders, but I guess HK people are so busy in making money they don't have the wisdom to protect the environment so they could live healthy and long life to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Catalytic converters have been mandatory for all new Hong Kong private cars for more than 20 years. Our problem is buses and commercial vehicles, which continue to be allowed to spew out choking clouds of black smoke as we speak, protected by a cosy legislator-transport lobby and regulated by an idle transport department.
Unfortunately, HK is often primitive in anything to do with technology awareness. Time to invest in knowledge rather than these damn finance types.
I'd like to believe Christine because she still has a degree of credibility, however I want to see tangible improvements before I'm convinced. We have had similar claims in the past that disappeared in the smog over Kowloon. I pray she is right.
John Adams
Full marks to Christine Loh for doing so much in such a little time.
She was very quiet since her appointment until recently, no doubt because she was doing some serious work behind the scenes. Now it's time to explain her initiatives, and all though there's still far to go, she has made an excellent start.
Keep at it Christine ! Hong Kong is behind you, and depends on you !
at least she has done something , unlike her predecessor Edward Travelalot Yau (60 trips overseas during 60 months tenure) yet he still has a Govt job! for his abject failure to do anything except signing over-generous scheme of control & bus franchises before stepping down to become the highest paid office manager in HKG.
so the government will pay these companies rather than implement legislation to comply to?




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