Globally, urban air pollution has become the leading environmental health risk. In Hong Kong, air pollution is threatening the health of the population, documented to be causing severe damage to lungs, heart and blood vessels.
With over 1,600 premature deaths caused by air pollution in one year alone (2018), 116 thousand hospital bed days and 2.3 million doctor visits, air pollution is a serious threat to public health.
a) In 2013, The HKSAR Government set out A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong that mapped out the air quality management strategy with time-bound targets, control measures, and action items until 2020 needed to achieve clean air.
b) As a result, over the last few years (2013-17), Hong Kong’s air pollution, including nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxides, particulate matters, at an ambient and roadside level reduced by 30% following various emissions control measures, including a subsidy scheme to phase out diesel commercial vehicles, mandating ocean-going vessel to switch to cleaner fuel at berth, etc.
What is still inadequate
c) However, public health is still not adequately protected. Roadside air pollution (Nitrogen Dioxide [NO2] and Respirable Suspended Particulates [RSP or PM10]) presents major health threats in Hong Kong. Ground-level ozone has hit record highs. According to the Hedley Environmental Index, there were over 1,600 premature deaths and over HKD20 billion in economic losses caused by air pollution, in 2018 alone.
d) In the first half of 2019, the western part of Hong Kong generally showed a much higher concentration of air pollutants than the eastern part. Of the 18 districts in Hong Kong (except for roadside stations), Kwai Chung(1st) and Shum Shui Po(2nd) had the highest concentration of nitrogen dioxide while Tuen Mun had the highest concentration of PM2.5. These three districts are of particular focus since they also are less advantaged. Underprivileged groups in these districts are thus exposed to higher air pollution and hence more health risk.
e) There are signals that the Government should pay attention to. At the roadside, the level of pollution reduction started to diminish after 2016. During 2017-19, the actual roadside pollution reduction trend was not on par with the Government’s projected trajectory as illustrated in the Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong 2013-17 Progress Report.
f) In order to further improve air quality, new commitment from the Government is needed. After the Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong was published in 2013, there has been no new blueprint from the Government showing the pathway to clean air beyond 2020. This is unacceptable.
g) Any delay in new commitment from the Government will result in a further decline of public confidence in the quality of life in Hong Kong. The health impact of air pollution is a key concern for all who inhabit and work in the city.
A Green New Deal for Hong Kong
To respond to the growing concern and desire for better air quality, a better urban environment, and to combat inequality in environment and well-being, the Government should make a new and strong commitment to clean air.
A significant improvement in air quality will benefit the physical and mental health of the general public but most urgently, specific populations such as the children and parents, senior citizens, the underprivileged, patients with chronic respiratory and circulatory diseases, frequent commuters and roadside workers.
An overarching strategy with time-bound goals, a well-resourced plan, and data-driven implementation details is required to achieve the above vision.
7 Key Recommendations from Clean Air Network are listed as follows for the 2019 Policy Address:
Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong beyond 2020
Electric Bus Fleet
Specific Measures for Highly Affected Districts
Strengthen control over Ship Emission
Strengthen control over Ozone
Strengthen control over non-road emission source
Upgrade Air monitoring infrastructure and Reporting mechanism
The recommendation has been submitted to the Government.
You can find more details about the recommendations by downloading the full document below.