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September 5th, 2008:

Oil Depletion And The Future Of Transport In Hong Kong And China

Civic Exchange Energy Forum IX 5 Sept 08

Oil Depletion and the Future of Transport in Hong Kong and China

On 5th September 2008 (Friday), Civic Exchange hosted an Energy Forum entitled “Oil Depletion and the Future of Transport in Hong Kong and China” supported by MTR Corporation Limited.

A keynote presentation was given by Dr. Richard Gilbert an expert on Peak Oil and post peak solutions. He has outlined the facts and implications of peaking oil supply, and has compared a number of solutions for transport that reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.

Two other panelists – former Commissioner for Transport Robert Footman, and Alex Tancock of Peak Oil Hong Kong Limited have offered additional comments on local implementation of low carbon transport solutions and have led a stimulating discussion, which was moderated by Mike Kilburn, Environmental Programme Manager of Civic Exchange.

At the forum, Dr. Richard Gilbert illustrated the use of electric cars and noted that public awareness of the level of off-the-shelf availability was poor in HK. He believed that HK Government had the means to subsidise such a move, as rising fuel costs drive buses towards a tipping point, where it becomes economically viable (in terms of full life-cycle costs).

Richard commented that in HK’s hilly terrain, electrified systems were much more efficient than hydrocarbon engines and that it would be more efficient to burn hydrocarbons to create electricity than to stay with pure hydrocarbon engines in such an environment.

He then spoke briefly about the spike in energy costs for the extra 20% of speed for ships and trains, and noted that Japan’s bullet trains ran slower than China’s would do for this reason.

Other issues discussed included the failed Citybus trial of electrified buses a few years ago, and the barriers to adaptation of this technology in the future (US$1 million per kilometre of overhead cabling installed), the lack of a manufacturer of skysails for commercial ships, and noted that HK/PRD would be the ideal centre for an Asian base of operations owing to the huge port traffic and manufacturing capabilities of the Delta.

WWF (HK) noted that they had recently produced a book – “Plugged in: the end of the Oil Age”, which closely follows the thinking of Richard Gilbert’s new book “Transport Revolutions”.

Asia’s Sooty Air

Down to Earth – New Delhi,India – PRIYANKA CHANDOLA – 15 Sept 08

Health effects of air pollutants worse in Asian cities

Economic boom in Asia has come with a price. Health effects of particulate pollutants in Asian cities are similar—even greater—than those in most industrialized western cities. Effects of gaseous pollutants are also higher in Asian cities. These are the conclusions of a study conducted in Bangkok and three Chinese cities—Hong Kong, Shanghai and Wuhan. It assessed the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution on mortality.

It is part of the Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA) project, undertaken by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) in Boston in partnership with the Pasig City, Philipines-based Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI -Asia).

Researchers used health data, including natural mortality and that of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, provided by health departments. Four pollutants, namely, NO2, SO2, PM10 and O3 were used as air quality indicators. The research teams adopted a common protocol.

PM10 levels were well above WHO guidelines. Wuhan and Shanghai had the highest PM10 levels. NO2 levels in Bangkok were slightly lower than the other two cities but were above WHO guidelines. Wuhan reported high O3 levels. Natural mortality was highest in Shanghai, followed by Bangkok and Hong Kong. Wuhan had the lowest. But deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases was the highest in Wuhan followed by Shanghai, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Air pollution levels of the four Asian cities were compared with 20 largest cities in the US using data collected between 1987 and 1994 by the country’s National Morbidity and Mortality Air Pollution Study (NMMAPS). The Asian cities fared poorly in the comparison. Mean PM10 levels were 33 microgrammes per cubic metre in the US cities while the PM10 levels in the Asian cities varied between 52 and 142 microgrammes per cubic metre.

The combined effects of all the four pollutants were equal or greater in the Asian cities compared to the US cities. The excess risk of mortality for all pollutants in Bangkok was higher than reported in the three Chinese cities. “The results provide important information on pollution related health effects in Asia especially for areas known to have high exposures but are underrepresented in the literature,’’ says the study published online on July 9 in Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers also observed that the effects were stronger for heart diseases than natural causes. The effects of the pollutants were stronger on the aged, particularly in Bangkok.

The second wave of the PAPA studies has finished in three Indian cities—Ludhiana, Delhi and Chennai. “The results are being analyzed and will be released shortly,” says J S Thakur, associate professor, Department of Community Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, who is involved with the papa study in Ludhiana. The researchers say the results will contribute to the international scientific discussion on health effects of air pollution. Multicity studies are very important in Asia as pollution effect estimates for the region can be generated. These in turn can provide relevant estimates of local impacts of environmental conditions to decision makers.

Australia Told To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Associated Press in Canberra – Updated on Sep 05, 2008

A government pledge to slash Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by midcentury would not stop dangerous global warming and should be extended to an 80 per cent target, a report recommended on Friday.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was elected to power last year on a promise to aim for 60 per cent cuts in emissions by 2050 a more ambitious goal than the 50 per cent agreed on by leaders at the Group of Eight industrial countries in July.

But Ross Garnaut, an economist commissioned by the government to investigate how Australia should respond to climate change, released a report on Friday recommending the 80 per cent target for 2050 and a 10 per cent interim target by 2020.

Such cuts are needed if Australia were to carry its fair share of the burden of holding the global carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 550 parts per million, he said.

That level of atmospheric pollution still posed “large risks to the Australian economy,” but developing countries would not agree to a safer target of 450 ppm, he said.

“Australia should now indicate its willingness to play its proportionate part in future, and if possible early movement toward a more ambitious global goal than 550 ppm,” Mr Garnaut said in the report.

The government has vowed to introduce a so-called carbon trading scheme by 2010 designed to give companies a financial incentive to reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, believed to contribute to global climate change.

But the government has yet to decide on what price to charge polluters.

Mr Garnaut said a permit for creating 1.1 US tonne of carbon dioxide should cost A$20 (HK$130). That price should be increased by 4 per cent a year.

Mr Garnaut predicted that would be close to the international price for polluting if a global free market in carbon-trading emerges from United Nation’s agreement on the 550 ppm target.

He said he hoped the agreement would be reached at a United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December next year.

The government has yet to respond to Mr Garnaut’s report.

Mr Rudd hopes to unveil his government’s final blueprint for an Australian carbon trading scheme in December and introduce legislation to parliament next March.

Australia is one of the world’s worst carbon dioxide polluters per capita because of its heavy reliance on abundant coal reserves. As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Teenage Photographer Takes A Shot At Pollution

Dan Kadison – SCMP – Updated on Sep 05, 2008

A 16-year-old photographer plans to focus attention on Hong Kong’s pollution problem by displaying his work at a Central art gallery.

On September 17, Sam Inglis, a student at Sha Tin College, will unveil nearly 20 of his photos in The Economist Gallery at the Fringe Club.

The teenager’s solo exhibition will be called Suffocation – and his Photoshopped images, some dark, some surreal, some optimistic, are meant to persuade and motivate.

“I wanted to create a number of art pieces based on the pollution – trying to get a message across, through the art, that the pollution of Hong Kong has got to a critical level,” Sam said.

His concern and his efforts have earned him a nomination as an Earth Champion.

The nomination is part of the Hong Kong Earth Champions Quest, a search for people and organisations who are trying to sustain and improve the city’s environment.

The efforts of Sam – who also volunteers at Kadoorie Farm in the New Territories and is building a roof garden at his school with other students – is just one example of how a person or a group can rally and enhance the community.

“It is exciting to see young people stepping up and taking action,” said Fiona Mathews, chief executive of the Earth Champions Foundation.

“With young role models like Sam showing other young people that they can make a difference, we want to invite all young people to let us know what they might be doing to improve where they live or what they are doing at school, or university.”

Sam was born in Hong Kong and had asthma as a child. He says the city’s pollution was to blame.

“There are loads of people trying to stop it – but I just thought it would be good if somebody from the artistic world started to push artwork in that area,” said Sam, whose work has been applauded by local environmental advocacy group Clear The Air.

“I don’t want to be too provocative, but I’m just trying to say that there is a problem and we need to do something about it.”

The teenager has been inspired by the work of his parents.

His father, Peter Inglis, is a professional photographer. His mother, Lindsey McAlister, is the director of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation.

“Sam is passionate about the arts and the environment and creating an exhibition which actually raises awareness about the state of the environment in Hong Kong,” Ms McAlister said. “I’ve been proud of him for wanting to make a difference.”

Nomination forms are available at The South China Morning Post is media sponsor of the initiative.

Residents Attack Car Park Plan For Heritage Garden

19th century landmark chosen for 400 parking spaces

Fox Yi Hu – SCMP – Updated on Sep 05, 2008

A plan to build a car park in a World Heritage-listed garden has highlighted the clash between conservation and urban growth in Macau.

Luis de Camoes Garden, also known as Dove’s Nest, was built in the first half of the 19th century and became part of the “Historic Centre of Macau” which acquired World Heritage status in 2005.

The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau plans to build a car park at the garden’s nursery site to meet demand for parking spaces in the area.

Bureau chief Tam Vai-man said last week that the government was working to clear some property ownership issues before it could start building the car park, the entrance to which would be located outside the garden on private land.

The car park would provide more than 400 parking spaces for cars and motorcycles.

But Macau historian Chan Su-weng said the project would affect the garden’s historic value and called on the authorities to listen to cultural experts before pressing ahead.

“It is the oldest garden in Hong Kong and Macau,” Mr Chan said.

“And there are prominent World Heritage sites – the Casa Garden and the Protestant cemetery – adjacent to it.”

Although there is no building of consequence on the nursery site where the car park would stand, the site should be protected as part of the garden, Mr Chan said.

“Protecting World Heritage sites is not just about keeping buildings,” he said.

The hilly and heavily wooded garden is named after Luis de Camoes, considered Portugal’s greatest poet and sometimes likened to Homer and Dante. Camoes was exiled to Macau in the 16th century and completed his epic Os Lusidas in the former Portuguese enclave. It is believed he lived in a cave near the garden.

A bronze bust of Camoes has been standing under a grotto in the garden since 1886. Also featured in the garden is a statue of Korea’s first Catholic priest, St Andrew Kim, who went to Macau to study in 1837.

The Historic Centre of Macau, featuring streetscapes and piazzas with more than 20 monuments, was included in the Unesco World Heritage list in July 2005.

The car park plan has annoyed some residents who fear it will spoil the views and natural environment.

Sixty-year-old Vong Kuai said he was worried that the car park would cut into the size of the garden and pollute the air.

“This hilly land is cut out for being a garden. Lots of people come here to exercise,” said Mr Vong, who has been living near the garden for four decades. “There is land elsewhere. Why must they eye this garden?”

A lack of parking spaces in Macau, coupled by an unpopular traffic law, sparked a protest by more than 3,000 motorcyclists in September last year.

There were 95,223 motorcycles and 84,466 vehicles in the city of 29.2 sq km at the end of July.

Transport officials have repeatedly stressed the need to increase parking spaces and ease traffic jams. The number of motorcycles in Macau has been growing at an annual rate of about 8 per cent in the past few years. A lack of parking spaces often leads to illegal parking and riders tend to ignore the parking tickets they receive.

Mr Chan suggested that if the government was determined to push ahead with the car park project it be built underground so as to minimise its impact on the garden.

The Macau government has yet to respond to a South China Morning Post inquiry.