To protect the health and well being
of the community by achieving and maintaining satisfactory air
quality through intervention in the planning process and by
enforcing the controls in the Air Pollution Control Ordinance
and the Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance.
Introduced a cap on emissions from power plants.
Reached agreement with traders to impose limits on volatile
organic compounds in products.
Introduced Euro IV standards for petrol and motor vehicles.
Air quality in
Hong Kong has become an emotive issue for many people. The
high occurrence of smog has led to complaints about the problem
and worries about the health impacts. It has also masked the
progress we are making on improving air quality. The Environmental
Protection Department (EPD) has introduced a number of programmes
to control local air pollution, particularly as it affects
human health. We are also working closely with the Guangdong
Environmental Protection Bureau to address regional pollution
(see Chapter 2 for details).
Underpinning these efforts is the principle that polluters
should take responsibility for controlling their emissions.
Our motor vehicle emissions control programme, for instance,
requires vehicle operators to pay for cleaner fuel and, with
Government support, ensure older vehicles are fitted with
pollution control devices. Power companies, who are the biggest
single source of smog-creating pollutants in Hong Kong, are
being subject to stricter controls on emissions from their
plants. Suppliers of products containing volatile organic
compounds, a smog-creating substance found in such everyday
items as paints and hairspray, are also facing controls. The
success of these measures represents growing acceptance of
polluter responsibility, a necessary and important development
in our efforts to secure cleaner air for Hong Kong.
|We are working closely
with the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau to
address regional air pollution.
The number of days in which the Air Pollution
Index (API) exceeded 100, meaning pollution was "very
high", dropped in 2005 due to favourable meteorological
conditions and continued efforts by both Hong Kong and Guangdong
to curb regional air pollution.
|Annual Record of API
exceeding 100 at air quality monitoring stations
The Government has devoted considerable resources to controlling
motor vehicle pollution in recent years with measurable success
(see box). Between 1999 and 2005 street-side
levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) fell 17 per cent and respirable
suspended particulates (RSPs) fell 14 per cent. Unfortunately, these
achievements have been clouded by incidents of smog. Here the main
emitting source is less apparent to the average person on the street.
Power plants are in fact Hong Kong’s biggest contributors
to regional air pollution. Most people are unaware of the problem
because the plants are tucked away in a remote area of the New Territories
and on Lamma Island.
The EPD has achieved important success in
controlling motor vehicle emissions. Between 1999 and 2005,
we reduced roadside nitrogen oxides by 17 per cent and respirable
suspended particulates by 14 per cent. These achievements
have tended to be clouded by a decline in general air quality,
but they are a significant achievement in terms of reducing
people’s exposure to harmful air pollutants.
Vehicles are the main source of these pollutants
and the number of smoky vehicle spottings has dropped dramatically
since 1999, by 80 per cent. Our programme has involved switching
taxis and public light buses from diesel to cleaner liquefied
petroleum gas (LPG) or electric vehicles, and fitting older
diesel vans and trucks with pollution control devices. These
measures were supported by $1.4 billion in Government grants.
The EPD is continuing to tighten controls
on motor vehicle emissions. In January 2005 Euro IV petrol
standards were adopted at the same time as the European Union.
The EPD has also made Euro IV motor diesel – ultra low
sulphur diesel – the statutory standard since April
2002, enabling a quick reduction in particulate and nitrogen
oxide emissions from diesel-fuelled vehicles. Hong Kong is
three years ahead of the European Union in that regard. Euro
IV standards for vehicles come into effect in January 2006,
in step with the EU.
|LPG public light
Power plants contribute 92 per cent of Hong Kong’s sulphur
dioxide (SO2) emissions,
49 per cent of NOx and 51 per cent of RSPs. Both CLP Power Hong
Kong Ltd. (CLP) and The Hong Kong Electric Company Ltd (HEC) have
installed low NOx burners to reduce emissions and HEC has also installed
three flue gas desulphurisation units. However, the benefits of
these devices are being eroded by increased power generation. Demand
is being pushed up by the stronger economies in Hong Kong and Mainland
China and the need for CLP to use more coal because of unstable
natural gas supplies for its plant at Black Point.
Recognising the problem, the EPD acted in 2005 to promote greater
polluter responsibility in power generation. Our major achievement
was the imposition of a cap on total emissions from local power
plants. Prior to August 2005 specified process licences for power
plants limited only the concentration of pollutants in emissions
(so much pollutant per cubic metre). But when emission quantities
started rising, so did the quantity of pollutants in the air. From
August, operators renewing their licences have been required to
reduce total emissions by complying with a set of emissions caps.
This new policy has resulted in power companies sourcing cleaner
coal. The first plant to renew its licence, CLP’s Castle Peak,
is starting to use ultra low sulphur coal to reduce the overall
sulphur content to 0.3 per cent, as against a statutory limit of
one per cent sulphur.
Moreover, the EPD is also encouraging CLP and HEC to adopt more
innovative solutions to pollution control. A pilot emissions trading
scheme is being worked out by the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments,
and both CLP and HEC indicated their willingness to discuss and
explore this option as a means to reduce emissions. The two power
companies have also agreed to set up production-scale wind turbines
in response to the Government’s interest in promoting renewable
sources of energy (see Chapter 10 for
details). The Government, for its part, has set air-conditioning
temperature at 25.5 degrees Celsius in summer months and written
to chambers of commerce asking them to follow suit. Reducing pollution
from power plants will undoubtedly require a commitment from everyone
to make cleaner, more efficient use of energy, not just the power
|A flue gas desulphurisation
plant installed at Lamma power station.
||CLP's coal-fired power plant at Castle
Another lesser-known contributor to regional smog is volatile organic
compounds (VOCs). These are not created by combustion, but emitted
by everyday products such as paints, printing inks, hairsprays and
aerosol insecticides. Hong Kong has pledged to reduce VOCs by 55
per cent by 2010, using 1997 as the base year, under its joint regional
air quality management plan with Guangdong. Surprisingly swift progress
was made towards that goal in 2005.
Consultations were held with suppliers during the year on a two-phase
proposal for controlling VOC emissions. The EPD initially wanted
paints, inks and selected consumer products to be tested and registered
for their VOC content and labelled, with mandatory VOC controls
phased in from 2009. However, the trade objected that labelling
would be costly and impractical. After extensive consultation, the
EPD proposed to proceed to simpler but more direct mandatory controls
on products’ VOC contents. Encouragingly, we were able to
secure the general support of the trade. The new arrangements will
require some products to be re-formulated or "greener" alternatives
to be sourced. For the environment, though, it means effective controls
for some products can be in place as early as 2007.
The Hong Kong Government is one of very few administrations in
the world to impose VOC limits on products after California, placing
it at the vanguard of VOC controls. Our success has depended on
suppliers recognising their responsibility to the environment and
showing a more forthcoming attitude towards reducing pollution from
their products. Governments can persuade and legislate, but polluters
must act. Fortunately in 2005, with the acceptance of caps on VOC
and power plant emissions, there were hopeful signs that this imperative
is being recognised.
Continue to tighten caps on emissions from power plants.
Require power companies to install effective emission reduction
devices as a primary consideration in the review of the electricity
market after 2008.
Promote energy saving, with the Government taking the lead
by cutting electricity consumption in offices by 1.5 per cent.
Switch to ultra low sulphur diesel in all government works