Civic Exchange urges the new administration to think beyond tail-pipe solutions in the wake of today’s announcement on Hong Kong’s new emissions reduction targets

HONG KONG: Friday, 23 November 2012 – Civic Exchange welcomes the announcement of the new air pollutant emissions reduction targets for Hong Kong in 2015 and 2020, and a series of proposed control measures. However, Civic Exchange also reminds HKSAR Government their past shortfall in meeting our Air Quality Objectives as highlighted by the recent Audit Commission’s Report No.59, and hence the need to think beyond end-of-pipe solutions as a means to improving air quality.

Limitation of tail-pipe solutions

While the list of measures proposed by the Government is fairly comprehensive and targeted, which reflects a better grip on the problem by the new administration than before, the list also shows an over-reliance on tail-pipe solutions, which are under direct control of the Environment Bureau (ENB) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).

Simon Ng, Head of Transport and Sustainability Research of Civic Exchange, explains, “to reduce air pollutant emissions by 25%, 10%, 10% and 5% respectively in Hong Kong by 2015, using 2010 as the base year, and to further reduce these pollutants by 35-75%, 20-30%, 15-40% and 15% respectively by 2020, the Government will put forward a range of measures to clean-up our major emissions sources, including road transport, vessels and power plants. These are necessary actions to improve our air quality, but we are putting all the eggs in ENB and EPD’s basket”.

Gaps in control

On the list, there is no measure to tackle traffic congestion and to improve efficiency of road-based public transport operation, which will in turn reduce roadside emissions. Besides, there is little mention of demand side management for transport and energy use, which will influence people’s behavior and consumption pattern, and ultimately changes the level of air pollutant emissions.

Shared responsibility for a common goal

Simon Ng continues, “in the past, the Government went for tail-pipe measures that would bring along quick fixes to air pollution problems. This is not a bad thing to start with. However, as Hong Kong continues to grow, emissions reduction achieved only through better technology will be quickly offset by higher vehicle and energy use. Starting from now, we need to also focus on planning and transport policies that would deliver a low-energy and low-emission city. To make significant improvement in air quality and public health, we need collective responsibility and ownership of actions within government and in society.