(September 29, 2012) South China Morning Post EDT12
In response to Peter Inglis’ letter (“Chief executive must have courage to deal with our polluted air”, September 26), I wish to affirm this administration’s commitment to improve air quality in Hong Kong.
I also wish to affirm that the protection of public health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air quality improvement measures.
In the coming months, the public will see a number of major proposals and initiatives aimed at dealing with specific air quality problems, the most important of which is roadside pollution arising from vehicles, especially diesel commercial vehicles. The reason these sources of pollution present the biggest problem is because they have the greatest day-to-day impact on public health. Quite simply, dirty engines need to be replaced.
Emissions from ships also cause harm. A number of leading shipping companies signed the voluntary at berth fuel-switching Fair Winds Charter that came into operation in 2011. While the government has complemented their efforts by reducing port dues for those vessels switching to using cleaner fuel, the administration agrees with the signatories that regulation is the way forward. We will work hard to make this happen.
We will further tighten the emission allowances for power plants, as well as consider changing Hong Kong’s fuel mix for electricity generation to significantly lower or even eliminate coal usage.
We will be engaging with experts, stakeholders and community groups shortly to kick-start a discussion on what may be the right fuel mix for Hong Kong going forward in the next decade.
Another vital task is for Hong Kong and Guangdong to collaborate to reduce air pollution. Only by sustained regional efforts will we improve ambient air quality. We are working on specific emissions reduction targets by 2020 and these will be announced shortly.
There are other key areas we are working on right now, such as revising the air pollution index system, which we will put forward in the coming half year.
Mr Inglis acknowledges that there is a cost involved in cleaning up. I agree with him that higher mortality and more illnesses from air pollution are also costly. However, the debate about how the pollution reduction costs are to be shared is not easy, even for a wealthy city like ours.
We will need public support on the many measures in the pipeline.
Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment