Hong Kong air pollution
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People view Victoria Harbour through air pollution on June 6. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

LettersHong Kong is determined to follow WHO standards on air quality, but step by step

  • The government has adopted a variety of measures to improve the city’s air quality, including phasing out polluting vehicles
  • It will progressively make improvements, first through interim targets and then proceeding towards WHO targets in the longer run
I refer to your editorial on September 28, “ Take action now to end the bad air days”. The government is committed to improving Hong Kong’s air quality to protect public health.
In the past decade, we have invested more than HK$22 billion (US$2.8 billion) to improve roadside air quality by phasing out the most polluting diesel commercial vehicles, promoting trials and applications of different types of electric and new energy vehicles and expanding the electric vehicle charging network, among other measures.
We have also been tightening control on marine fuels and emission caps for power plants and collaborating with governments in the Greater Bay Area to reduce regional emissions.

Our efforts have been very fruitful. Ambient and roadside concentrations of major air pollutants in Hong Kong fell by about 40 to 60 per cent in the past 10 years, and hours of reduced visibility were improved by more than 70 per cent.

To set out the targets, strategies and measures to further enhance air quality and reduce carbon emissions, we issued the Road map on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles and the Clean Air Plan 2035 in March and June respectively and will release Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 soon. These blueprints will help lay a foundation for Hong Kong to attain zero vehicular emissions and, equally important, carbon neutrality before 2050.

While the Clean Air Plan 2035 sets out our long-term goal to fully meet the ultimate targets of the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines issued in 2005, they are stringent. So far, no country fully adopts them as statutory standards.

The WHO recently released a new set of air quality guidelines with most of the ultimate targets further tightened. Notwithstanding the greater difficulty for many places around the world to achieve these guidelines, we are determined to follow the WHO’s advice to progressively improve our air quality by first achieving the interim targets, then proceeding to attain the WHO targets in the longer run.

The government will soon embark on the next review of the Hong Kong air quality objectives to examine the effectiveness of our air quality improvement measures and explore new initiatives, tightening the targets wherever practicable and benchmarking against the WHO guidelines.

Similar reviews as required by law will be carried out every five years, leading Hong Kong’s transformation towards a more liveable and sustainable city.

Brian Lau, principal environmental protection officer (air policy), Environmental Protection Department