Environment Bureau Environmental Protection Department ENVIRONMENT HONG KONG 2008
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6 Air

 
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Mission

 

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.


CLEAR OBJECTIVES FOR CLEANER AIR


Highlights in 2007
  • A consultancy study to review Hong Kong's Air Quality Objectives and develop a long-term air quality management strategy was commissioned.
  • A consultation began on banning vehicles from running their engines while idling.
  • A new regulation imposed limits on the volatile organic compound levels in certain products.
  • Vehicle owners were offered incentives to replace pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles with new, less-polluting vehicles.
  • A tax incentive scheme for environment-friendly petrol private cars was launched.
  • A concessionary duty rate of $0.56 per litre for Euro V diesel was introduced.
  • The specified process licence for the Black Point Power Station was renewed, incorporating a new arrangement for offsetting emissions.
  • The first six-month and 12-month reports from the Pearl River Delta Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network were released.

The quality of Hong Kong's air is of deep concern in the community and the Environment Bureau (ENB) and Environmental Protection Department (EPD) have been working vigorously to achieve improvements. In 2007 we made good progress on our longstanding programmes to reduce emissions from motor vehicles and power plants. Our energy and cross-boundary programmes also made advances in linking energy generation to environmental performance and co-ordinating a regional response to air pollution. The combination of these efforts is helping to reduce our pollution, although there is still much room for improvement. In 2007 we launched a review of our health-based clean air objectives that will result in a longer-term strategy for sustaining blue skies over Hong Kong.

A beautiful day in Hong Kong.

A beautiful day in Hong Kong.

Air quality in Hong Kong

In 2007, we continued to reduce air pollution emissions, although it can be hard to see the results when regional pollutants combine into smog. At roadsides, the levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) have fallen by 24 per cent since 1999 and respirable suspended particulates (RSPs) by 15 per cent as a result of aggressive measures to control motor vehicle emissions.

Road side air monitoring station at Mong Kok.

Road side air monitoring station at Mong Kok.
In regional terms, too, we have managed to control most types of pollutants. The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments are working together on regional air pollution and have set targets to reduce emissions to below 1997 levels by 2010. Hong Kong's NOx emissions are already down 23 per cent from 1997 – better than our target of 20 per cent – and RSPs have dropped by 48 per cent and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 40 per cent, against reduction targets of 55 per cent. We are confident we can meet the 2010 targets for these pollutants through current and future initiatives and our cross-boundary efforts.

Emission trends from 1997 to 2006

However, an extra effort will be needed for sulphur dioxide (SO2) levels, which are up 12 per cent since 1997. Power plants are the chief source of this pollutant and the administration is tackling the issue from several angles so we can reduce SO2 levels by 40 per cent by 2010.


Power plants

While RSP and NOx emissions from power plants have decreased since 1997,  SO2 emissions have risen. This is because of higher demand for electricity and the use of coal to meet that demand. One of our central aims is to see power plants do all they can to reduce emissions through a combination of carrot and stick.

Coal-fired power plants at Tuen Mum (left) and Lamma Island (right).

Coal-fired power plants at Tuen Mun (left) and Lamma Island (right).

Financial arrangements were being finalised with the power plants in 2007 to provide economic incentives for reducing emissions, and penalties for failing to do so. These negotiations also touched on energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fuels (see Energy for details).

Administrative tools are also being used to reduce emissions. The specified process licences issued under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance include limits on total annual emissions. In 2007 the licence for the Black Point Power Station was renewed with a new offsetting arrangement. Increases in power generation and emissions at Black Point, which uses cleaner natural gas, can now be offset by significant emission reductions at Castle Peak Power Station, which uses coal. The net effect will be much less pollution.

Legislation could also be used in future to enforce tighter emission caps. A proposed amendment to the Air Pollution Control Ordinance would limit total permissible emissions from power plants from 2010 onwards and allow them to use emissions trading to meet their caps. The amendment will go to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in early 2008 and hopefully be another tool in our efforts to meet our 2010 pollution reduction targets.

This gas-fired power plant gives out less polluting emissions than coal-fired power plants.

This gas-fired power plant gives out less polluting emissions than coal-fired power plants.


Motor vehicle emissions

One of the most visible sources of air pollution is motor vehicles, which contribute to roadside pollution. People see pollutants belching from the back of trucks, buses and other vehicles and understandably demand something be done to stop it.

A busy road in Kowloon.

A busy road in Kowloon.
Since 2000 the EPD has tried to tackle the problem from every angle. The permitted standards for vehicle emissions and fuel have been tightened, almost all taxis and over half of the public light buses have switched to less polluting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), emission reduction devices are being fitted to diesel vehicles registered before 1 April 1995, and owners of older diesels have been offered financial incentives to replace them with cleaner ones.

Comparison of Vehicle Exhaust Emission Standards - Large Diesel Vehicle (>3.5 Tonnes).

Comparison of Vehicle Exhaust Emission Standards - Large Diesel Vehicle (>3.5 Tonnes).
The most recent initiatives include a $3.2 billion package approved by the LegCo in early 2007 that offers owners of 74 000 pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles a one-off grant to replace them with cleaner Euro IV vehicles. When compared to pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles, Euro IV vehicles emit 50 to 60 per cent less NOx and more than 90 per cent less RSP. We also introduced a concessionary duty of $0.56 per litre for Euro V diesel for two years from 1 December 2007 which, compared with ultra low sulphur diesel, can reduce SO2 emissions by 80 per cent and RSP by 5 per cent.  For petrol vehicles, a 30 per cent reduction on the first registration tax for new environment-friendly petrol cars was introduced in April 2007, up to a ceiling of $50,000 per car. Within the first year, 11 per cent of all newly registered private petrol cars had taken up the offer.

Vehicle and fuel technology to reduce emissions is advancing quickly and the EPD will continue to monitor the latest developments so they can be considered for Hong Kong. We are also working on an issue of community concern, banning idling engines, and hope a consensus can be reached in 2008.


Air Quality Objectives review

The EPD is trying to improve air quality across many fronts – locally, regionally, from motor vehicles and power plants, and from other sources of air pollution. Our success will be measured in large part by whether we achieve our Air Quality Objectives (AQOs). These health-based targets were devised many years ago and new developments suggest stricter standards may be called for.

The World Health Organisation, European Union and United States have all been revising their standards in light of recent scientific research that suggests very small particulate matter (2.5 microns) may have a more detrimental health effect than previously thought, and in lower concentrations. Similarly, the EPD is re-considering its standards.

A study was commissioned in June 2007 to devise new AQOs for Hong Kong and develop a long-term strategy for achieving them. The study is considering public health, cost effectiveness, society's expectations, technologies, time required to introduce measures, the need to work with the Mainland and policy implications for energy, transport, industrial development, urban planning and conservation.

The general public and other stakeholders are being consulted and their views will be included in the final study report, which is due for completion in 2008. Another round of public engagement will be launched in 2009 to finalise the new AQOs and the way forward on air quality. Hong Kong has made good improvements on many fronts in reducing polluting emissions. Our goal will be to sustain and enhance those gains, with the full participation of the community.

A panel of professionals and experts at a public consultation forum to discuss the review of Hong Kong's Air Quality Objectives.

A panel of professionals and experts at a public consultation forum to discuss the review of Hong Kong's Air Quality Objectives.


Looking Ahead
Looking Ahead
 
  • The study on Air Quality Objectives will be completed by the end of 2008 and will be followed by a comprehensive public engagement exercise.
  • An amendment will be proposed to the Air Pollution Control Ordnance to cap emissions from power plants from 2010 and enable power plants to engage in emissions trading.
  • A tax incentive scheme for environment-friendly commercial vehicles will be launched in April 2008.
  • Work will be underway to introduce Euro V motor vehicle fuel specifications from 1 January 2009 and introduce biodiesel specifications.
  • A proposal will be made to make ultra-low sulphur diesel mandatory in the industrial and commercial sectors.
  • Stakeholders will be consulted on the use of remote sensing equipment to detect excessive emissions from petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles, and the use of a dynamometer to test them.

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