An attempt to make Hong Kong a green model for Asia and plans to cut air pollution by more than half in four years were among the main planks of Tung Chee-hwa's environmental pledges. And he promised to spend $30 billion within the next decade on improving the environment. Although Mr Tung failed to bend to pressure to introducing user-pays charges for waste disposal immediately, he promised the Government would shortly propose a landfill charging scheme. He made a commitment to reduce air pollution-causing suspended respirable particles by 60 per cent by the end of 2003, and by 80 per cent two years later. Nitrogen oxide emissions are to be cut by one-third by 2005. If this is achieved, Hong Kong would compare favourably with other international centres such as New York or London. At the moment, air pollution here is 50 per cent worse than New York's. The reduction is to be achieved by increasing on-the-spot smoky vehicle fines to $1,000; giving $1.4 billion in grants to taxi, bus and truck owners for emissions testing, and the installation of particulate traps and catalytic converters; and more pedestrian zones in Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok. Seminars are to be conducted for the motor trade on better maintenance and 'eco-driving', and another 300 smoky vehicle spotters are to be trained. A six-month trial scheme with LPG in minibuses is to start in April, and Mr Tung said diesel buses would be phased out. He is also proposing to take taxis more than seven years old off the road by 2003, and have no diesel taxis after 2006. Guangdong's influence on the environment was acknowledged with the formation of another cross-border committee, headed by the director of Guangdong's Environment Department and the chief of the new Food and Environmental Hygiene Bureau, Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying. Last night, Mr Tung and Guangdong Governor Li Ruihua said the Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection would: Conduct studies on acid rain, to be completed by early 2001; Work out standards to cut pollution by cross-border traffic; Co-operate on improving water supply; and Improve liaison to pre-empt and mitigate the impact of urban development. Conduct joint efforts on environmental research and conservation of the White Dolphin, Shenzhen Bay and Mirs Bay. 'Hong Kong cannot possibly solve all of its environmental problems single-handedly. We need to work closely with the mainland authorities . . . for example, to protect our air and water quality,' Mr Tung said. The Government wants to halve the amount of municipal waste by 2007 through reduction and recycling, and a $10 billion waste-to-energy incinerator. Due to problems with the troubled and behind-schedule Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme, Mr Tung said the completion date of stage one would be reassessed. The next phases are to be reviewed, while works in the New Territories costing $9 billion are aimed at improving water quality. He hinted at increasing charges to 'users and polluters' of the sewerage system. While water supply from the East River, or Dongjiang, met mainland standards, it was now being piped from further upstream, Mr Tung said. A closed aqueduct, to prevent run-off into the supply, would be completed in about four years. In light of many toxic spills in the past two years, the Marine Department is to implement a response plan by the end of next year. North Lantau Country Parks will benefit from their proximity to the proposed Disney development and will be increased by more than 20 square kilometres. Another marine park will be set up and more artificial reefs sunk. 'We will strive to make Hong Kong a green model for Asia,' Mr Tung said. 'Sustainable development' is to become a key policy objective. A government 'unit' will be established next year, and by 2001 all policy initiatives will have to include 'sustainability impact assessments' measuring social, environmental and economic impacts before decisions are made.