Action on air pollution in Hong Kong has produced tangible improvements

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 10:43pm

I refer to Catherine LaJeunesse’s letter (“When will our officials act on air pollution?”, September 19).

The government is committed to improving air quality. We published a Clean Air Plan in 2013 and a progress report in June this year, setting out specific control measures on key emission sources. On vehicle emissions, we have had a HK$11.4 billion incentive-cum-regulatory scheme since 2014 to progressively phase out 82,000 pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles by the end of 2019; subsidised franchised bus companies to retrofit Euro II and III buses with emission-reduction devices and test electric buses; and, set up franchised bus low-emission zones in busy districts, as well as strengthening the emission control of liquefied petroleum gas and petrol vehicles. To control vessel emissions, we have tightened the sulphur content of locally supplied marine light diesel since April 2014. In July 2015, Hong Kong became the first Asian city to mandate that ocean-going vessels at berth switch to low-sulphur fuel. We have also progressively tightened the emission caps of power plants.

From 2012 to 2016, we have seen discernible improvements in our air quality. Roadside concentrations of major air pollutants, including respirable suspended particulates, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide have decreased by 28 to 31 per cent, while ambient concentrations of these pollutants have dropped by eight to 21 per cent.

Looking ahead, we have just further tightened the emission standards of newly registered vehicles, in phases from July this year to October 2018. We will also issue a new technical memorandum by the end of 2017 to further lower emission caps of power plants from 2022 onwards. On vessel emissions, we plan to mandate that most vessels (not just ocean-going ones) use low-sulphur fuel while in Hong Kong waters (not just at berth) starting in 2019. Furthermore, we embarked on a review of the air quality objectives last year to identify possible new measures and assess the scope for tightening the objectives. We aim to complete the review in 2018.

The serious air pollution incidents recently were caused by regional photochemical smog, which happened on calm and hot days. Pollutants emitted in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region were trapped under light winds and reacted to form ozone and fine particulates under the sunlight.

We will continue to work in collaboration with the Guangdong provincial government to improve the air quality of the region.

Dave Ho, acting assistant director of environmental protection