Air Pollution and Public Health

Speech of the Hon KP Chan on the Motion on Air Pollution and Public Health at the Legislative Council on 8 December 2010 (Synopsis)

•    Hong Kong is suffering from prolonged air pollution.  Despite efforts of both the community and Government to improve air quality, pollution is only getting worse.   Although there is no fully objective evidence to link casualties with pollution directly, the community should endeavour to fight pollution and protect nature.

•    Consultation on air quality parameters by the Environmental Protection Department was completed at the end of last year.  All parties agreed that the most stringent standard of World Health Organization should be observed but there are different views on its immediate or phased attainment.  We would rather have an aggressive but practical timetable to make the Government accomplish than an ambitious standard with under attainment.

•    Pollution in Hong Kong is much affected by its vicinity with the Pearl River Delta being the primary source.  Emissions in Hong Kong only contribute from 1 to 15 percent of pollutant of the region.  Even if Hong Kong introduces the most stringent standard right away, it does not serve any meaningful purpose because we could hardly attain it alone shortly.  Government policy on air quality should include emission control at source and energy demand management.

•    In respect of pollutant control, I support the original Motion and Amendment, particularly commitment of additional resources to tackle pollution of public transport.  Today, more than 20,000 highly polluting diesel vehicles are still running on the road.  I look forward to an early announcement of details of assistance to pre-Euro and Euro-I owners, including subsidies for scrapping these old vehicles.  Meanwhile, the Government is supporting franchised operators to pilot hybrid buses and pilot retrofitting Euro-II and Euro-III buses with catalytic reduction devices to reduce emission.  If they are proved to be effective, the Government should take further steps to help bus operators to put these initiatives in practice.

•    In respect of energy demand management, i.e. effective encouragement of energy saving, the Government should launch further measures including updated Code of Building Energy Efficiency, incentives for compliance with the Code and extension of mandatory Energy Label Scheme to more appliances.

•    It is utmost important to encourage people and organizations to take the initiative to save energy.  The Government should introduce incentives for energy saving like subsidies for low power consumption and punitive charges for high consumption.   Of course, feasibility is yet to be explored.  As long as people pay attention to the particulars of daily living, air pollution may be effectively reduced.

•    On the other hand, the Government recommends increasing the share of natural gas from 28 to 50 percent in the fuel mix of power generation in the consultation paper on air quality parameters review.  There is no specific recommendation on expanding nuclear power generation.  However, the Consultation Paper on Hong Kong’s Agenda on Strategies and Actions on Climate Changes recommends reducing natural gas to only 40 percent by 2020 but increasing nuclear power from currently 23 to 50 percent.   In my view, the Government should not further expand nuclear power before causes for public concern are addressed.  Instead, it should further look into increasing natural gas and renewable energy as primary sources of power generation.

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