Hong Kong’s air quality index smokescreen must be lifted to reveal true pollution levels
I refer to the letter from the acting assistant director of environmental protection, Dave Ho (“Action on air pollution has produced tangible improvements in Hong Kong”, October 6), in reply to my letter (“When will our officials act on air pollution?”, September 19).
I believe he fails to understand that political action must go beyond government measures now being enacted. Pollution is getting worse. You only have to look at increasing ozone levels to know this. The photochemical smog he referred to is a result of the high levels of ozone and nitrogen oxides combined with solar UV radiation, of which only sunlight is a natural event; the others are produced by polluting emissions.
The government must adopt World Health Organisation standards to remove the smokescreen which they hide behind. Using its Air Quality Health Index standards obscures the reality that our air quality is considered dangerously unhealthy on the WHO scale. WHO standards should be adopted so that the true state of Hong Kong pollution compels private and public action. All legislative sectors should have a public policy agenda for complying with WHO standards.
While Mr Ho maintains that the government is doing all it can in the area of reducing car emissions, the public has been left confused by the expiry of the waiver on the first registration tax for electric cars on March 31 this year. This ended the government’s support for the nascent electric car industry and pushed the cost of these mid-tier models beyond the reach of most buyers, effectively creating a disincentive for them.
The government’s stated intention was to curb car growth, but why target e-cars? Instead, taxes should have been raised on vehicles that rely on fossil fuels, which are much more numerous and popular than e-cars – this is the way to curb car ownership.
Electric vehicles are not the only answer, as they, too, contribute to pollution – because electricity is often supplied by coal-burning plants. But they are a step in the right direction, given the impact of roadside emissions on health.
Incidentally, the last government Clean Air Plan was presented in 2013 and we are told another report will be produced in 2018. It is hard to imagine that a public health crisis, which should be a top priority for the government, should take five years to address in a comprehensive way. Is this really the best the government can do for the people of Hong Kong?
Catherine Lajeunesse, Sai Kung