Hong Kong is running out of time to contain emissions of nitrogen oxides - which have increased despite a cross-border pact to cut them, green activists say.
The warning came after the environmental watchdog released emissions figures for 2012 showing a 6 per cent rise in the level of the pollutants above the 2010 level. Hong Kong has until next year to reduce its nitrogen oxides emissions to 10 per cent below the 2010 figure under the pact signed with Guangdong.
The 2012 figures show the pollutants were up by 7,000 tonnes on 2010, bringing the total to 115,000 tonnes.
However, that was still below 2009 levels, and three other key pollutants recorded decreases of between 2 and 8 per cent, with sulphur dioxide falling most. The pact, signed in 2012, also requires Hong Kong to achieve reductions of 5 to 25 per cent for sulphur dioxide, small particles and volatile organic compounds.
Power stations, construction and aviation fuelled the emissions growth, according to the Environmental Protection Department. The Airport Authority said the number of flights grew by 5.3 per cent in 2012 to 351,655.
"We are quite concerned about whether the government will be able to meet its nitrogen oxides targets for 2015 in such a short window of time," said Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin.
The effectiveness of short-term measures targeting emissions from minibuses and taxis, for example, could be easily offset by pollution from development and construction, he said.
Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth, said development on Lantau, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the proposed third airport runway, would not help.