HK government is just “playing a numbers game” with our city's air quality goals

HK government is just “playing a numbers game” with our city's air quality goals

Local NGO criticises the government for ‘playing a numbers game’ with the targets

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Hong Kong’s air quality targets could be breached more often in future.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

The Hong Kong government is set to update its five-year air quality goals, but critics say they aren’t ambitious enough.

The government told the Advisory Council on the Environment earlier this month the revised targets for 2025 could not meet World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations because this would make it impossible for infrastructure projects to pass environmental impact assessments (EIA).

The new changes will call for a decrease in the amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, and amount of fine suspended particulates (PM2.5). However, the number of times those targets could be breached in a year is likely to raise drastically.

HK’s five-year air quality targets are deliberately low to facilitate development, such as that of Lantau Tomorrow Vision

The air quality goals will be subject to a three-month public consultation after being presented to the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council on March 25.

Loong Tsz-wai of the Clean Air Network, who sits on one of the review groups, said the government is “playing a numbers game” by setting targets which are easy to meet. He also suggested the low targets would make it easier to push forward the proposed “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” land reclamation megaproject.

Dr Nicky Lam Yun-fat, an environmental expert at City University, told Young Post the targets “could be more aggressive”, but still represents a step in the right direction.

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“The biggest problem are the EIAs: there isn’t much room for improvement,” he said. “For example, if you demolish a building in an urban area, it’s hard to meet the standards. It’s a balance of sustainable development and tightening the standards.”

While he doesn’t believe the standards are by the economy and developments, he agrees there is too much input from industry.

“Foreign standards use a very different approach. They first set the standard and tell businesses to obey. But then you get lawsuits with emission caps.”

Interested and passionate about the environment? Hong Kong students will be marching in the School Strike for Climate as part of the global #FridaysForFuture and #SchoolStrike4Climate movements today. They’re starting from 11am at Chater Garden and will be marching to the Central Government Offices. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for live updates.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
‘Soft’ air quality goals

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