Air Pollution Control Strategies

A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong 
Tackling roadside air pollution
Reducing marine emissions
Cutting emissions from power plants
Cooperation with the Mainland



This section sets out the strategies of the Hong Kong SAR Government (HKSARG) for tackling air pollution problems.
Hong Kong has been facing two air pollution issues.  One is local street-level pollution.  The other is the regional smog problem.  Diesel vehicles are the main source of street-level pollution.  Smog, however, is caused by a combination of pollutants from motor vehicles, marine vessels, industry and power plants both in Hong Kong and in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region.

A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong

The Environment Bureau (ENB) released “A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong” in March 2013 to outline comprehensively the challenges Hong Kong is facing with regard to air quality and to give an overview of the relevant air quality improvement policies and measures.  We have been implementing a wide range of measures covering land and sea transport, power plants and non-road mobile machinery to reduce air pollution.  Besides, we have been strengthening collaboration between Guangdong and Hong Kong to deal with regional air pollution. The ENB published "Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong (2013-2017 Progress Report)" in June 2017, which gives an account on its implementation and achievements.

Tackling Roadside Air Pollution

The Government has been implementing a series of vehicle emission control measures in recent years, including phasing out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs), replacement of catalytic converters and oxygen sensors of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) taxis and light buses, strengthening emissions control on LPG and petrol vehicles, retrofitting Euro II and III diesel franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) devices and adoption of tighter vehicle emission standards, etc.

The Government is preparing the following new initiatives to further reduce air pollutant emissions from vehicles -

  • To adopt an incentive-cum-regulatory approach to progressively phase out about 40 000 Euro IV DCVs;
  • To tighten the emission standards of first registered motorcycles to Euro 4, and the emission standards of first registered light buses with a design weight of more than 3.5 tonnes and buses with a design weight of not more than 9 tonnes to Euro VI;
  • To conduct a trial of retrofitting of Euro IV and V diesel double-deck franchised buses with enhanced SCR systems to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides; and
  • To review the current scope of the Pilot Green Transport Fund to further promote the transport sectors’ wider use of green innovative transport technologies.

Reducing Marine Emission

To control emissions from marine vessels, Hong Kong has adopted MARPOL Annex VI requirements and regulated excessive vessel smoke emissions.  The Government has also been leading by example by powering Government vessels with Euro V diesel.  The sulphur content of locally supplied marine light diesel has been capped at 0.05% since 1 April 2014. Ocean going vessels berthing in Hong Kong are required to switch to compliant fuel (i.e. fuel with sulphur content not exceeding 0.5%, liquefied petroleum gas and any other fuel approved by the Director of Environmental Protection) since 1 July 2015. The Government has been collaborating with the governments in Pearl River Delta to reduce vessel emissions in the region, including the joint efforts to take forward the implementation of a Domestic Emission Control Area in the Pearl River Delta. In this regard, the Air Pollution Control (Fuel for Vessels) Regulation (Cap 311AB) came into effect on 1 January 2019 requiring all vessels, irrespective of whether they are sailing or berthing, to use compliant fuel within Hong Kong waters to further improve air quality.


Cutting Emissions from Power Plants

Electricity generation is a major source of air pollution in Hong Kong. In 2017, emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and respirable suspended particulates (RSP) from power plants accounted for 43%, 27% and 16% respectively of the total territory-wide emissions. The emissions of power plants would also affect the air quality in the Pearl River Delta region. Reducing their emissions could help reduce the regional levels of SO2, particulates, etc. To reduce emissions from electricity generation, the Government has banned the construction of new coal-fired generating unit by the two power companies (i.e. CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) and the Hongkong Electric Company, Limited (HEC)) since 1997. The Government amended the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO) in 2008 to ensure a smooth, timely and transparent allocation of emission caps for power plants by means of issuing a Technical Memorandum (TM). We have issued since 2008 seven TM to stipulate emission caps for power plants from 2010 onwards. The latest seventh TM was issued in 2017 to further tighten the power sector’s emission caps for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates by around 60-80% from 2022 onwards as compared with the emission caps set under the first TM for 2010.

In order to meet the stringent emission caps, the two power companies have implemented a number of the emission reduction measures including:

  1. installing flue gas desulphurization (FGD) and denitrification systems for coal-fired units;
  2. increasing the use of low-emission coal and natural gas for electricity generation;
  3. constructing new gas-fired units to replace some old coal-fired units;
  4. increasing electricity intake from the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station; and
  5. upgrading existing gas-fired units for improving their NOx emission performance as well as thermal efficiency.

Revamping the fuel mix for electricity generation is most effective to further reduce emissions from power plants. The Government has pledged to increase local gas generation to around 50% of the total fuel mix for electricity generation by 2020 (“Fuel Mix Target”) as an environmental target for 2020. With the operation of two new gas-fired units, each for HEC and CLP, in 2023, the proportion of gas generation will be further increased to around 57%. As outlined in the Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+, the Government would continue to phase down coal in local electricity generation, optimise the implementation of renewable energy (RE) to help reduce emissions from coal-fired units and make the city’s buildings and infrastructure more energy efficient.

On the other hand, the Government also reduces the emissions from power plants via promoting energy saving. In May 2015, the Government unveiled the Energy Saving Plan for the built Environment 2015-2025+, which sets a new target of reducing Hong Kong’s energy intensity by 40% by 2025. The Government also entered into a new Scheme of Control Agreements (SCAs) with the two power companies in 2018. Under the new SCAs, incentive and penalty schemes will be revamped to better encourage the power companies' performance in supply reliability, operational efficiency, customer services, promotion of energy efficiency and conservation (EE&C), as well as the development of RE.

On the development of RE, the Government is also making great efforts to developing waste-to-energy (WTE) plants and will install solar generation systems of a larger scale at suitable reservoir and landfill locations. On the promotion of WTE, the Government has pushed forward a number of state-of-the-art WTE projects, such as T·PARK, Integrated Waste Management Facility, O·PARK and WENT Landfill Gas Generation. The Government has also introduced the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to encourage the private sector and the community to consider investing in distributed RE.

Cooperation with the Mainland

In addition to reducing emissions from local sources, we have been joining hands with Guangdong to improve air quality of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region.

In December 2003, the two governments drew up the PRD Regional Air Quality Management Plan (the "Management Plan") under which both sides have been pursuing emission reduction measures targeting power plants, motor vehicles and heavily polluting industrial processes. The Special Panel on PRD Air Quality Management and Monitoring was set up under the Hong Kong-Guangdong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection (JWGSDEP) to follow up on the tasks under the Management Plan.

In September 2014, the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao jointly signed the “Cooperation Agreement on Regional Air Pollution Control and Prevention among Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao” with a view to fostering regional co-operation on air pollution control and prevention. The three sides also enhanced the regional air monitoring network in 2014. The number of monitoring stations has been increased to 23 with the inclusion of a station in Macao, and with real-time air quality information of the three places released. The network was also renamed as “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao PRD Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network”. In addition, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Joint Regional PM2.5 Study was completed at the end of 2018, providing a robust scientific basis for mapping out further air quality improvement strategies for the region.

In December 2017, the governments of Hong Kong and Guangdong jointly released the results of the mid-term review on air pollutant emission reduction targets in the PRD region, confirming that both sides had achieved their respective 2015 emission reduction targets for four major air pollutants (namely sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), respirable suspended particulates (RSP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC)), and finalised the reduction targets for 2020. The details are as follows:


Region Note1

2015 Emission Reduction Target Note2

2020 Emission Reduction Target Note2


Hong Kong (HK)



PRD Economic Zone







PRD Economic Zone







PRD Economic Zone







PRD Economic Zone



Note 1: The PRD Economic Zone includes Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Foshan, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing. 
Note 2: Reductions are relative to 2010 emission levels.

In 2018, the two governments launched a study on post-2020 regional air pollutant emission reduction targets and concentration levels for Hong Kong and Guangdong, with a view to formulating emission reduction targets beyond 2020.

From 2006 to 2018, the annual average levels of SO2, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and RSP as recorded by the PRD Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network recorded a decrease by 81%, 28% and 36% respectively. This indicates an improvement in regional air quality brought about by the emission reduction measures implemented by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in recent years. However, the annual average of O3 increased by 21% during the same period, reflecting the photochemical smog problem in the region has not yet been resolved. The three governments will continue to implement emission reduction measures to further improve the air quality in the region and tackle the photochemical pollution problem.

In addition, we launched the Cleaner Production Partnership Programme (the Programme) in collaboration with the then Economic and Information Commission of Guangdong Province (now the Department of Industry and Information Technology of Guangdong Province) in April 2008. It encourages and facilitates Hong Kong-owned factories to adopt cleaner production technologies and practices through funding support and technology promotion activities, thereby improving the regional environment.   Both sides also jointly launched the Hong Kong – Guangdong Cleaner Production Partners Recognition Scheme in 2009 to recognise the efforts of enterprises in pursuing cleaner production.



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User review date: 
Tuesday, 15 October, 2019