HK Magazine Archive

Three Years On: The Big Smog

How has CY Leung managed pollution issues in the last three years?
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:45pm

He Said: 

  • No more light pollution!
  • Less waste! More haste (to recycle)!
  • Kick air pollution in the ass!
  • Electric cars are awesome!

He Did:

  • Hong Kong has been named “worst on the planet” for light pollution, but no action has been taken to curb this massively wasteful expenditure of money and energy. In 2011 the government set up the Task Force on External Lighting to investigate the issue: In April 2015 it reported that the city was not ready for legislative control of light pollution, rather weakly recommending a voluntary charter instead.
  • Little has been actively done in terms of waste reduction. Plans to build an incinerator have been an ongoing issue since 2007: It’s intended to reduce the need for landfill space, which is projected to run out in the next five years. But incinerator particle emissions are hazardous and transporting rubbish to Shek Kwu Chau, the incinerator’s future location, will have a heavy carbon footprint.
  • Recycling hasn’t been very successful either: In early 2014, officials admitted drastically overstating the amount of waste being recycled, blaming fluctuations in the waste trade. Glass recycling bins are still virtually nonexistent, despite the sheer number of beer and wine bottles tossed every night. The full plastic bag levy was implemented on April 1 this year, requiring consumers to pay 50 cents per plastic bag. Despite confusing rules about what gets you a free bag and what doesn’t, we do appear to be more careful with our bags now. Or maybe we’re all just paying the extra 50 cents?
  • In his manifesto CY stated the aim of adopting the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines as a long-term goal. As of May this year, pollution levels exceed WHO safety levels for most of the year in business districts. Evening rush hour in Central produces 104 percent more pollution than the WHO safety standard, with 40 percent of vehicle particulates produced by private cars. Between 2010 and 2013 pollutants have fallen between 4 and 12 percent, although nitrogen oxide levels are up 4 percent.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations are cropping up around town, with around 1,100 chargers available to the public, of which 160 are faster “medium chargers.” However, there are still only 11 “quick chargers” available. The government has also earmarked $180 million for bus companies to buy electric buses for trial runs, which are now underway. 

The Grade: B