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Idling Engines

Ban on idling engines delayed

South China Morning Post – 21 July 2011

Legco panel accuses officials of a ‘breach of trust’ after department informs lawmakers of a three-month postponement in long-awaited legislation

A Legco panel has accused environmental officials of “cheating” by postponing for three months the law meant to ban idling engines.

Adding to lawmakers’ anger, a one-month grace period will be granted to offenders after the law takes effect on December 15 – three months after its intended implementation date and 10 months after the legislation was passed.

Carlson Chan Ka-shun, the deputy director of environmental protection, told Legco’s environment affairs panel that the ban had been delayed out of consideration for drivers in the hot weather, who tend to leave their engines running to power a vehicle’s air-conditioning system.

“My understanding all along is that everyone was hoping that the law would not take effect during the hottest days of the year,” Chan said. September was still part of the city’s hottest season.

He said the Environmental Protection Department also needed time to finalise technical details, such as the format of the penalty notice, and to include these in subsidiary legislation which Legco would be able to pass only after it resumes sittings in September.

Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, the panel’s deputy chairwoman, said she was dissatisfied with the delay, saying that “the government has always cheated. [The delay] has damaged our mutual trust”.

She said the legislation could instead have been introduced “in mid- or late October when it gets cooler.”

She criticised the government for failing to present the draft regulations yesterday, as it had promised to do when lobbying lawmakers to pass the law in March.

Democrat Kam Nai-wai said he doubted whether the ban could be executed in December, given that officials had shown little progress in arranging publicity and training staff.

Chan replied that 18 police officers and one environmental inspector had been assigned to prepare the work and that they would receive training in September.

The law, which has 20 exemptions, was passed in early March after 10 years of debate over the desirability of such a policy.

After negotiations with the transport industry had been completed, the result represented a much toned-down version of a proposal made by the government in 2007. The original ban offered no grace period, no exemption on bad-weather days, and excluded only the first two taxis and minibuses waiting at a rank.

Changes were introduced in 2009 to exempt more taxis and minibuses, and to cover buses with at least one passenger on board. A three-minute grace period was also introduced. The ban will be suspended on any day when the Observatory issues warnings for storms or very hot weather. The ban will apply to all roads in Hong Kong. Drivers caught parked with their engines running will be fined HK$320.

Thomas Choi Ka-man, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said he was disappointed. “The ban has been so much watered down and now it’s further delayed. I wonder how determined the government is in executing its policy.”

Choi said it would be more helpful to enforcement officers if the ban was launched in summer along with the one-month trial period, as hot days should be the time when most disputes arose over its implementation.

Man Chi-sum, of Green Power, said the delay was a political consideration to avoid strong reaction from the transport industry but was at the expense of pedestrians, street vendors and workers.

Illegal parking in Central can be curbed with more traffic wardens (then there is the idling enforcement)

South China Morning Post — 6 June 2011

The report (“Bosses’ cars blamed for clogging roads”, May 28) reveals that many people are parking their vehicles in prohibited places “because there are not enough parking spaces in Central”.

However you reported on the application Hutchison Whampoa (SEHK: 0013) lodged to convert 78 parking spaces at the Cheung Kong (SEHK: 0001) Center into a supermarket as it claimed that the parking facilities there were not being fully utilised.

This is an ongoing process as Hutchison is now contesting the zoning of the parking facilities. In accordance with the lease conditions it was originally required to provide a public car park with 800 spaces in return for being allowed to build on the site of an existing public car park and Beaconsfield House. Now it wants to reduce the number of spaces. Meanwhile streets in Central are clogged with idling vehicles, many of them with drivers snoozing while they wait for their bosses to call them. There is not a traffic warden in sight and while there are often hundreds of police officers mobilised to stand with their arms folded around the Legco building, little effort is made to force illegally parked cars to use Cheung Kong Center’s parking facilities.

The most absurd situation is that at Bank Street at lunch hour. This short narrow street is a yellow boxed area directly opposite Cheung Kong Center but drivers often idle there for hours as they wait for their bosses to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the China Club.

This is despite the fact that a yellow box always has a large notice stating that vehicles waiting will be prosecuted without warning. Hands up anyone who has ever seen a line of illegally parked vehicles get anything more than a gentle verbal warning to move on.

In a few months we will see the introduction of the idling engine law. Pedestrians will then have a legitimate right to demand swift action against idlers on our streets. However, the number of traffic wardens is to be increased by a mere one per district. With high pollution levels in Central the degree of illegal parking on streets there can no longer be tolerated.

While we sit around waiting for our HK$6,000 lai see, there are many in the community who cannot understand why a small fraction of the budget surplus was not spent on diminishing roadside pollution by providing the manpower necessary to enforce zero tolerance implementation of parking and traffic regulations that would ensure that facilities like the Cheung Kong parking spaces are utilised for their intended purpose.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai

Hong Kong Engine Pollution Ban Hurt by Exemptions as Smog Climbs to Record

REUTERS 7 March 2011

Vehicles are the second-biggest source of pollution in Hong Kong, after power stations, and their numbers rose 9.6 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to the government.

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) — Lee Quane, regional director for Asia at human resources company ECA International Ltd., talks about Hong Kong’s air pollution. The city’s roadside air pollution may reach record levels during the third quarter, according to calculations by Bloomberg News, as the local government comes under increasing pressure to bolster its cleanup measures. Quane talks from Singapore with Susan Li on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Hong Kong will ban idling engines to reduce vehicle emissions from as early as September, after pollution climbed to a record last year. A 14-year battle to curtail roadside smog was hurt by exemptions to the bill.

Drivers will be fined HK$320 ($41) should they idle engines for more than three minutes, according to the bill passed March 5. Government exemptions, including to cabs queuing at stands, lessened the impact of the law, environmental groups said.

New World First Bus Services Ltd., Citybus Ltd. and groups including the Motor Transport Workers General Union have fought the legislation, a proposal first sent for public consultation in 2000. Roadside smog reached “very high” levels for a record one in four days in 2010. Pollution is linked to 4,800 additional deaths between 2007 and 2010, the University of Hong Kong said Jan. 19, and is hurting the city’s ability to lure talent, according to the General Chamber of Commerce.

“The bill has been watered down a lot as the government caved in to political pressure from the transport sector,” said Edwin Lau, director at the Friends of the Earth (HK). “We don’t think this could bring significant improvement to the worsening air, but it’s better than nothing.”

Changes to the bill included the exemption of all cabs at stands, from just two vehicles in line, and allowing some buses to be exempted should they have at least one passenger on board.

More Vehicles

“The evisceration of this bill by transport interests demonstrates lawmakers’ inability to defend public health over the interests of narrow constituencies,” said Joanne Ooi, chief executive officer of Clean Air Network, a lobby group.

Vehicles are the second-biggest source of pollution in Hong Kong, after power stations, and their numbers rose 9.6 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to the government.

“We have carefully examined the views of the community, the needs of drivers and the transport trades, and balanced the effectiveness of the proposal,” the Environmental Protection Department said in an e-mailed statement. “It will certainly help reduce the environmental nuisances and the associated health hazard caused by idling vehicles.”

Hong Kong’s efforts to reduce pollution date back to Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s predecessor, Tung Chee-Hwa, who in his maiden policy speech in 1997 said “traffic fumes” and pollution swept in from China are problems the city must tackle.

Nitrogen Dioxide

While pollutants from neighboring China declined after an emission control pact with the Guangdong provincial government, the average level of nitrogen dioxide, a major auto pollutant that will shorten lives after prolonged exposure, was almost triple the European Union’s safety level from January to June last year in Central.

“We risk doing something too late,” said Fu Xiaowen, assistant professor in transport economics and policy at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “Pollution is slowly killing us. The government should do more, whether in terms of offering tax breaks or funding electric cars.”

Hong Kong said in its budget last month it is trying out hybrid buses and plans to replace government vehicles with electric ones. Nissan Motor Co. agreed to advance supply of its Leaf electric car to Hong Kong, the government said January.

Still, a government plan to replace older vehicles on the road has met with objections from bus companies concerned about incurring extra costs.

Citybus and New World, which run the most bus routes on Hong Kong Island, have resisted, saying they won’t speed the replacement of older, more polluting buses.

Older Vehicles

“We will follow a schedule for replacing buses based on their age to avoid wasting resources and increasing pressure for fare increases,” Citybus and New World, 50 percent owned by a unit of developer New World Development Co., said in a statement to Bloomberg. Buses will be replaced after serving 17 to 18 years, said the companies.

Buses account for as much as 40 percent of traffic in the busiest areas, and about 25 percent of the franchised buses have engines with emissions worse than the European Union II standard. Singapore banned such vehicles in 2001. There are five EU standards, with I the least stringent and V the most.

The tussle highlights the struggle of Asia’s third-richest economy to convince transport companies to pay for cleaner vehicles as a survey released in December said a quarter of respondents would consider leaving because of pollution.

“The pollution problem is an underestimated threat to the viability of Hong Kong as a center,” said Anthony Limbrick, chief investment officer of hedge fund Pure Capital Ltd. “It is not an environment that is easy to take a family that takes fresh air for granted to.”

Smoggy Shopping

The daily average pollution level in Central registered as “very high,” which triggers a health warning, for 86 days in 2010, up from the 44 days in 2009. Central, which has Mandarin Oriental International Ltd. (MAND)’s hotels and stores of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, was the worst among the 14 districts monitored. Last week, pollution reached “very high” levels in the five business days in Central.

“It’s obvious that the air is getting worse as we see smoky smog covering the harbor more than ever,” said Isabella Chan, sales and marketing director at Franklin Templeton Investments (Asia) Ltd. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe on the street.”

About 35 percent of the franchised buses would be retired by 2015, with costs pegged at between HK$2 million and HK$3 million each, the government said. Replacing all of them now isn’t possible, and trials are being conducted to fit emission- reduction devices to buses, Environment Secretary Edward Yau said Jan. 5.

Peregrine Cust, founder of Prana Capital, chose Singapore over Hong Kong when he moved his investment team from London in April partly because of the air, he said.

“A clean, healthy, friendly environment in Singapore was a big consideration,” said Cust. “The pollution obscured the Kowloon view from Central. You could almost taste it!”

Clear the Air says: Idling vehicle engines

engine-idling2For those who still believe the Government of Hong Kong has done a good job with our environmental problems, this letter from the deputy director of the EPD , published some 11 years ago, demonstrates the apathy of the Hong Kong Government to act. Now, 11 years later the Government wants to allow a 3 minute ‘legal to pollute’ idling engine exemption and to issue a ticket to the driver, not the vehicle owner (as in parking contraventions ) for the offence – only large diesel vehicles need an idling period to fill their airbrake reservoirs to allow the brakes to be released and if two licence holders in the vehicle swap the driver’s seat position every 170 seconds they can run their idling engines all day without getting a ticket. Taking a leaf out of the Government book for the anti smoking legislation (implement  new legislation but deliberately allocate meagre insufficient enforcement manpower resources thus rendering the law ineffective) the Government has decided to add a whopping 18 additional traffic wardens to help enforce the ‘new’ idling engine legislation throughout Hong Kong.

Idling engines not significant air polluters

Updated on Nov 20, 1999

Your correspondent Ted Thomas (South China Morning Post, November 6) retells the tale of the London smog which killed many thousands up until the early 1950s, when legislation was introduced to control it.

The London smog was caused by the burning of fuels that were high in sulphur and a very similar situation existed in Hong Kong throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Our problem was caused by emissions from industrial buildings and power stations, but in some areas was so acute that the steel fittings on residential buildings adjacent to industrial areas were dissolving in the acid rain produced by these emissions.

The Air Pollution Control Ordinance, passed in 1983, was intended to prevent these hazardous emissions, but by the late 1980s many establishments had found loopholes in that legislation. In 1990, the Environmental Protection Department developed the Fuel Restriction Regulations, which when implemented in June of that year transformed many districts of Hong Kong, much as, decades earlier, the Clean Air Act had cleared the air in British cities.

We have photos, taken only a week apart in 1990, which demonstrate the dramatic improvement that was brought about by the introduction of the new controls.

Mr Thomas also referred to the issue of idling vehicle engines. Whilst the emissions from idling engines are not a significant contributor to our overall air pollution problems, in some locations they can be not just a nuisance, but an unacceptable impact on the health of nearby pedestrians.

Typical problematic locations are enclosed public transport terminuses and narrow streets where lines of taxis or buses wait with engines idling, such as Jardine’s Bazaar in Causeway Bay and Beach Road in Repulse Bay. No doubt readers will recall many similar locations.

In many communities, it is socially unacceptable to let your engine idle, just as it is to leave your taps running or your lights on when no one is at home. In some communities, legislation has been introduced to prohibit the idling of engines.

However, in almost all that legislation there is an exemption for hot or cold weather conditions and a threshold time period specified, below which it would not be illegal to let your engine idle.

The combined effect of these two provisions on such similar legislation in Hong Kong might be to allow vehicles to be exempted altogether in the summer months and to allow more unscrupulous drivers to circumvent the legislation by the simple expedient of switching off the engine before the statutory time threshold is reached.

I have raised these difficulties simply to demonstrate that the legislative control of idling engines is rather more complex and contentious than your correspondent seems to appreciate.

Nevertheless, we have developed proposals for legislation to control idling engines and will publish them in the near future for public consultation. We believe that at the very least, such legislation will establish a benchmark for society as to what is the unacceptable use of an engine in a stationary vehicle.

M. J. STOKOE Deputy Director of Environmental Protection

Cap on fuel sulphur lowered to reduce emissions (SCMP 8th May 2010)

An amendment was introduced to the Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) ordinance yesterday to tighten specifications of motor vehicle diesel and unleaded petrol to Euro V standards from Euro IV. The amendment tightened the cap on sulphur content in fuel to a fifth of previous levels, in a bid to reduce vehicular emission of sulphur dioxide by 80 per cent, other major gaseous emissions by 10 per cent and respirable suspended particulates by 5 per cent. Petrol stations, which have since 2007 offered Euro V diesel and Euro V petrol, sold half the petrol imported into Hong Kong last year.

Clear the Air Letter to Editor SCMP

angry-letter4-300x292Roadside pollution comes mostly from local vehicles here. The Government has finally proposed a further exemption to the Motor Vehicle Idling (FP) Bill by allowing a 3 minute ‘still legal to pollute’ grace period for stationary drivers to run their engines which issue the most microfine pollutants at idling speed. The only vehicles that need to idle to become operational are large goods vehicles which need to fill their airbrake reservoirs and this requirement should be covered separately.

The Government chooses to cherry pick that several Toronto municipalities (but not elsewhere in Canada) have a three minute vehicle and boat idling period. It conveniently omits that Toronto allows car and boat engines to continue idling when the temperature inside the vehicle is above 27 Deg C or below 5 deg C, that the fixed penalty for the offence is between C$100 – C$ 380 (two to 8 times more than here) and can be up to C$ 5,000 if contested in court. It does not mention that the vehicle emissions’ standards in Canada are far stricter than Hong Kong

nor that Toronto has an average of 15 cms of snow and at 630 sq kilometers with a 7,200 sq kilometer green belt surrounding it, is far more spread out as a city and does not have the same curtain wall urban canyon effect that traps roadside microfine pollutants here.

Here is yet another example of Hong Kong’s obdurate Government trying to issue a loopholed piece of legislation to pander to big Business  and is worthy of a sketch from ‘Yes Prime Minister’. The law as proposed , is unenforceable – should the enforcers stand next to the vehicles  for an hour and count a total of 3 engine idling minutes to wait to issue a ticket ? In Europe several countries even demand engine switch off at red lights whilst already having a far cleaner and less polluted environment than Hong Kong. The Government should learn from its deliberately flawed anti smoking laws that allowing such exemptions resulted in  legal tobacco sales’ increase in 2008 after the flawed ban with exemptions came into place, so must we expect the same increase in engine idling with this potholed legislation ?  They should re-name the Engine Idling legislation the ‘Amazing Grace’ Ordinance. It seems the Government yet again puts vested interests ahead of the health of the local public to which it has a duty of care.

In addition the Government wishes to inflict the penalty on the driver rather than the vehicle owner. If more than one driver is in the car and if they swap places in the driver’s seat every 2 1/2 minutes the wardens are powerless to issue a ticket and idling can continue.

James Middleton

Chairman Energy Committee

Air con without running engines

dog-car-justinsullivanLast updated: April 21, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

I refer to recent articles and a letter from Anders Ejendal (“Idling engines in Repulse Bay“, April 19), regarding idling engines. I wish to point out that all vehicles, including coaches, can enjoy air-conditioning while stationary without their engine running.

As an electric vehicle designer, I can assure everyone that all these petrol/diesel coaches require is an extra supply of battery power and some smart electronics, and this is not expensive. For example, most taxis can have a workable system installed for around HK$10,000.

Replacing old air conditioners with hi-tech ones will enormously reduce electricity needs. Technology is available to convert any coach to fully electric drive, and it is an economically viable proposition.

Nigel Lam, Kowloon Tong

Idling law misses mark

10100570arobin-hood-postersLast updated: April 21, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

I refer to your recent news stories about the new law which requires drivers to limit the amount of time their vehicle engines are idling.

Such a law appears laudable as the government takes steps to reduce pollution and help prevent climate change.

However, with only a slight amount of critical thought, one wonders whether the government introduced the law merely to lull the public into thinking they are looking out for their best interests.

Considering all the sources of pollution that affect Hong Kong, the idling of engines is surely so far down the list as to be laughable.

The two biggest local pollution contributors are coal emissions from electricity generators, and vehicle exhausts. But the vast majority of pollution from the latter is surely caused by engines burning fuel in order to move rather than to stand still.

In effect, the government has put its time and energy into writing a law whose outcomes will have minimal gains, yet may bring appearances of being green.

In the meantime, it drags its feet on the big issues: reducing the amount of coal burned to generate electricity, installing scrubbers on power plants, getting highly polluting vehicles off the road and getting tougher on marine emissions.

Colin Whittington, Ma On Shan

RTHK Backchat: Idling Engines

Last updated: April 19, 2010

Source: RTHK

On today’s Backchat we talk about idling engines. The government is proposing a 3 minute rule for drivers before they have to switch off their engine; failing to turn it off will mean a fine of HK$320. There will be exemptions for the first 5 taxis at a stand, first 2 green minibuses at their terminus & hybrids to name a few. Will this proposal turn up the heat even more?

You can listen to the show here.


Read the study by Motoda Yoshitaka here.

They do it in Singapore, why don’t they do it here?

Regarding Stationary motor vehicles
21. —(1) Subject to paragraph (2), the driver of every motor vehicle shall, when the vehicle is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions, stop the engine of or other machinery attached to or forming part of the vehicle.