Since established in 2009, CAN has been advocating to tighten the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) to meet World Health Organization’s most stringent Guidelines. In 2013, with the strong support from the general public, we have successfully pushed for a review of air quality objectives, which were tightened for the first time in two decades.
It represented a small victory. However, the battle is not won yet.
Last week, the Government has announced the public engagement exercise, to gather public’s views on possible new air quality improvement measures discussed during the Review of the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs). (Details)
But wait… before we go into details of air quality improvement measures as suggested, why not taking a look of some key issues for AQOs.
- AQOs is important in a way that – infrastructure projects that required to comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment must meet the Air Quality Objectives.
- AQOs in Hong Kong are only regarded as targetsunder Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO), not standards. It implies that meeting the AQOs is not mandatory under APCO; they are only targets to be aimed for. Therefore, failure to achieve the AQOs would not carry a legal consequence.
- There is no timeline given in APCO that dictates when the AQOs must be achieved. It is partly the reason why the roadside air pollution (in terms of nitrogen dioxide level) is always higher than HK AQOs, for the past two decades.
- The establishment, achievement, and maintenance of AQO standards is NOT based on the public interest of achieving better public health, but only vaguely on “the conservation and best use of air in the [air control zones] and in the public interest” (s.7A of APCO).
The consequence would be, whereas ClientEarth in the UK could win a law case against UK government on not complying roadside NO2 standard, the same case won’t happen in Hong Kong, not to mention there are permissible number of exceedance on pollutants level.
- Would you know what happens if the air pollution in HK continues to exceed the Objectives? Nothing happen.
For example, for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) hourly average in HK, the number of exceedances allowed per calendar year is 18.
In 2016, the actual number of exceed in Causeway Bay is 134; Central: 79; Mongkok: 36;
In the ClientEarth law case mentioned, the European commission ruled the government of UK, which is responsible for persistently exceeding legal nitrogen dioxide levels since 2010, to provide an action plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible, or the UK government will be fined.
Therefore, we are hereby to demand the Environmental Bureau to tighten the Air Quality Objectives based on the primary purpose to safeguard public health. https://goo.gl/zWZSeH