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December, 2008:

An Interview of Christian Masset on Topic of Air Pollution in Hong Kong

Christian Masset, Chairman of CTA, Bloomberg – 12 Dec 2008

Chairman of CTA, Christian Masset, was interviewed on 12 Dec 08 and broadcast in Bloomberg. He talked about the actions Government should take to clear the air in Hong Kong, even in the situation of recent economic crisis.

California Moves on Global Warming, Warned on Cost

Reuters in San Francisco, SCMP – Updated on Dec 12, 2008

California, the leading US state on climate change, set detailed goals on Thursday (Friday, HK time) to cut greenhouse gases and address global warming but faced criticism the plan’s economic assumptions were hopelessly optimistic.

Home to the world’s eighth largest economy, California confirmed its US environmental trendsetter status with an ambitious 2006 law that seeks to cut carbon emissions linked to global warming to 1990 levels by 2020.

The law spearheaded by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first in the country to set carbon targets. The federal government still has no firm plan.

“[The plan] provides a road map for the rest of the nation to follow,” Mr Schwarzenegger said. US Democratic President-elect Barack Obama has promised to make climate change a priority when he takes office on January 20.

The California Air Resources Board voted on Thursday to adopt a plan to fill in details of how to cut carbon emissions, from forest conservation to energy efficiency and carbon emissions from industry and cars and trucks.

The goal of cutting carbon emissions about 30 per cent below projected business-as-usual levels by 2020 has been widely accepted as a desirable target, and debate has moved to a cost-benefit analysis of means to make the cuts in the midst of an economic meltdown.

“We have laid out a plan which if followed can transform our economy and put us on the road to a healthier state,” board chairman Mary Nichols said as all eight board members approved the plan.

Measures include requiring that 33 percent of electricity be from renewable sources, regional transportation emissions targets and a cap-and-trade system for cutting industrial pollution by letting utilities and other companies trade emissions permits.

Much more remains to be done over the next few years. The plan has been compared to a menu for a meal, with recipes for dishes yet to be worked out.

Critics have urged the board to reconsider, including some economists who argue the analysis is full of rosy assumptions and ignores potential problems.

“All economists are sceptical when approached with a free lunch,” said University of California, Los Angeles economist Matthew Kahn. “I wonder if there would be less likelihood of a backlash if there were more discussion now.”

Companies throughout California fear rising electricity and other costs will put them out of business.

“This plan is an economic train wreck waiting to happen. Up until now, that train wreck has only existed on paper,” said California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce legislative affairs chairman James Duran.

The board, responsible for carrying out the 2006 law, said it saw the growth of green business more than making up for the costs. Its analysis shows per-capita income rising about US$200 a year as a result of the changes to the economy and a US$7 billion per year rise in the gross state product of California as a relatively small effect on the nation’s most populous state.

James Fine, an economist for the Environmental Defence Fund, argued that the impact more than a decade from now of major changes to the state economy today was impossible to tell with the precision demanded by critics. The bottom line, he said, was that the economic impact was negligible.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to argue about whether the economic effects are going to be a little bit positive or a little bit negative,” he said.

Mr Fine and others expect California’s plan to spur action from the US Congress, which has fail

Silver Lining

SCMP – Updated on Dec 12, 2008

Given the clear skies we have enjoyed in these past few months it begs the question if this is a direct result of a slowdown in industry over the border.

Certainly there is a high correlation in timing with the deepening economic crisis.

The darker the economic clouds, the clearer the skies, or so it seems. Favourable weather may have a part to play.

But whether you are still working or recently unemployed, the lack of pollution is a real silver lining in these gloomy times.

Christopher Pearce, Discovery Bay

China “Cancer Village” Pays Ultimate Price For Growth

Reuters By Emma Graham-Harrison and Vivi Lin – Thursday, December 11, 2008

Once an isolated haven, the Chinese village of Liukuaizhuang is now a tainted hell, surrounded by scores of low-tech factories that are poisoning its water and air, and the health of many villagers.

One in fifty people there and in a neighbouring hamlet have been diagnosed with cancer over the last decade, local residents say, well over ten times the national rate given in a health ministry survey earlier this year.

Many fear they are paying for the country’s breathtaking economic expansion with their lives, as surrounding plants making rubber, chemicals and paints pour out health-damaging waste.

“They asked in the hospital whether my family had a history of cancer. I said: ‘No, in the last three generations no one had it’,” one villager told Reuters, pulling out his x-rays and doctor’s diagnosis that he had lung cancer. “It must have a lot to do with the pollution here.”

Three decades of reforms and opening up since 1978 have transformed China from a rigidly ideological backwater into the world’s fourth largest economy, lifting millions out of poverty, but not without a price.

Nationwide there are dozens of places like Liukuaizhuang, where factories have blackened streams, poisoned farmland and choked the air.

Just 120 kilometres south of Beijing, Liukuaizhuang was a quiet village before the dramatic economic boom was kicked off by a series of low-key Communist reforms on Dec 18, 1978.

Twenty years later almost 100 chemical plants were scattered across what used to be farmland and thirty years on someone in almost every family is dead or dying of cancer — the youngest just seven years old — according to a local activist.

Officials agree that the area, dubbed a “cancer village” in domestic media, had a huge pollution problem, although they insist cancer rates are below the national average and all the worst-offending factories are now shuttered.

“The factories were not far from homes and to a certain degree influenced the normal life of the villagers,” said the Communist Party spokesman for the county, Huo Junwei.

“(But) we think figures provided by individuals exaggerate pollution problems in our area,” he said. “For several years we have been looking into whether there is a link between cancer and chemical production and have not yet got a scientific answer.”


In recent years, national leaders worried about the mixed legacy of chasing economic expansion at almost any cost have stepped up calls for a more equitable society and cleaner industry nationwide.

But the pollution around Liukuaizhuang was so rampant that a crackdown driven partly by health concerns began in 2003, long before greener growth became a ubiquitous government mantra.

And activists say waste water and toxic gasses are certainly causing some illness there, even if an apparent link with cancer has not been proved.

“Pollutants including heavy metals like mercury and lead have already got into the food chain and all these chemicals will affect the normal function of cells,” said Gao Zhong, an environmental economist with a non-governmental organisation that works to clean the country’s polluted water.

Wong Tze-wai, an environmental health expert at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, said it would be premature to assume a link, but authorities should look into whether the number of cancer cases in the village was abnormally high, and if so, why.

“It’s important to investigate. We know that many industrial chemicals are carcinogenic and it is not unlikely that they can get into the eco-system,” he told Reuters.

The village’s richer inhabitants have backed that view by moving away, locals say, leaving behind the old, poor and ill. Some cannot afford even the most basic health precautions.

“We don’t have enough money to clean the water we drink. We put it all in a basin and let the pollutants sink,” said the daughter-in-law of one lung cancer sufferer.

All are reluctant to discuss the illness as they say health benefits were cut to victims who spoke out in the past, as well as one activist, Wang Dehua, who was jailed for several years.

“A lot of journalists came and went, but it did not change the situation at all,” said one middle-aged liver cancer patient whose husband was also diagnosed with cancer recently. Like all the other interviewees she refused to be named.


Some hope may ironically come from the global economic crisis, which is threatening so many Chinese jobs, as the world slowdown has dented demand for the products churned out from the country’s factories and so cut their waste.

The villagers say some of Liukuaizhuang’s bare bones factories, where paint is mixed in open drums in fume-filled warehouses guarded by vicious dogs, have already gone bust.

The crisis has also spurred Beijing to line up a multi-billion dollar stimulus package. Activist Gao hopes some of the cash will be spent on cleaner technology.

“Now we are facing financial turmoil. There is a good way to stimulate domestic demand and also keep society stable, which is to improve the environment to invest more into this so … the country will be able to develop with quality,” he said.

However there is also a risk that Beijing’s leaders, facing rising unemployment and the social problems caused by a slowing economy, will relinquish environmental goals and ease pressure on the heavy industries that have created so much of both the country’s growth and its pollution.

Many in the “cancer village” fear the clean up is too late for them but they cling to hope that it will save their children and grandchildren from terminal illnesses.

“Of course I am worried, but what is the use of being worried?” said a lung cancer patient.

“We have to save our concern for the next generation.”

(Additional reporting by Tan Ee Lyn in Hong Kong)

State Air Regulators Consider New Rules to Require Cleaner Diesel Trucks

Farm Bureau spokeswoman says they can live with rule

BY JAKE HENSHAW, Sacramento Bureau – December 11, 2008

In the next two days, state regulators will consider giving big truckers new marching orders to help clean up the air.

By Friday, the California Air Resources Control Board may require nearly a million diesel trucks to phase in exhaust filters and new engines at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars and more per truck.

While the air board said it has $1 billion to help pay the bill, small truckers say the cost of complying with the new rules will drive some of them out of business, especially in the current recession.

“It would be devastating to both the local and state economy, not only for the trucking company but their families and their vendors,” said Kelly Kyle of Faulkner Trucking Co. in Tulare. “The snowball effect would be unbelievable.”

The agriculture industry, which uses a wide array of diesel engines, has negotiated changes with the air board staff that its representatives said their industry can live with.

“I wouldn’t say [the ag industry] is happy with the [proposed] rule,” said Patricia Stever, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau. “We are at the point where we think the compromise can work for the industry.”

Preventing deaths

For clean-air advocates and the air board staff, the proposed rule is essentially a lifesaver, intended to control the diesel emissions of tiny particulates known as PM 2.5 and of nitrogen oxides that lodge in the lungs and help form smog.

The air board estimates that between 2010 and 2025 the rule would prevent 9,400 premature deaths, cut the number of asthma-related cases by 150,000 and lead to 950,000 fewer lost work days. It says the economic value of these health benefits is between $48 billion and $68 billion.

“In a way, people have been subsidizing the trucking industry with their health,” said Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Regional comments

The proposed rule has drawn a range of comment from some regional air boards.

The San Joaquin Valley San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has not formally acted on it, but Executive Director Seyed Sadredin said the Valley needs major emission cuts by diesel trucks because they contribute half the pollution.

“If we shut down all the business in the Valley, we wouldn’t make a dent [in the pollution problem] if we still had those trucks [unregulated],” he said.

The proposed rule is the latest and most significant step by the air board to extend control over diesel emissions in the state.

Diesel emissions from trucks make up 28 percent of all the PM 2.5 and NOx pollution produced in the state, according to the air board.

It’s driven in part by the need to meet federal air- quality standards so the state will avoid the potential penalty of losing millions of dollars in transportation funds.

The penalty for truckers who fail to comply with air pollution rules can be up to a $1,000 per violation per day for some offenses.


The new rule would set out a schedule for all diesel trucks, based in or out of state, driven more than 1,000 miles a year generally to install filters for particulates between 2010 and 2014 and to upgrade engines to 2010 equivalents between 2012 and 2022.

There are a variety of exceptions, including fleets of three or fewer trucks, which wouldn’t have to meet new requirements until 2013.

Agriculture truckers who drive them seasonally or for other low-mileage uses such as fertilizer deliveries also would get more time to comply.

For example, any agricultural truck traveling less than 10,000 miles annually is exempt until 2023, with other delays based on a combination of mileage and truck age.

Specialty vehicles

Further, specialty agricultural vehicles such as nurse rigs and cotton module trucks will get unique treatment.

The state air board estimates the cost of meeting the new regulations at about $5.5 billion between 2010 and 2025 and points to its $1 billion in financial aid as a way to help the neediest truckers.

“A drop in the bucket,” Sadredin said of the money, noting that only about half the funds would go to truckers and the rest to uses such as rail and ports.

Sadredin said the San Joaquin Valley alone needs $2 billion to pay half the cost for truckers, who then would have to cover the remaining cost.

Loan program

The state air board is working on a low-interest, government-backed loan program that would leverage a $50 million pot of aid up to $350 million to help truckers pay the bills, said Erik White, chief of the office responsible for the diesel-engine regulations.

“We think that is emerging as a cost-effective way for the state to spend its resources and still provide relief,” White said.

Truckers said that some of them can’t qualify for state aid because they don’t drive enough miles, and that the recession makes any financing difficult and has already driven enough truckers out of business to reduce their industry’s emissions.

“Cleaning up the air is fine,” said Jim Ganduglia of Ganduglia Trucking in Fresno, joining other truckers in calling for more time to comply to avoid job losses. “They don’t care about the economy.”

The state air board concedes that there will be some job losses if the new diesel rules are adopted — between 4,600 and 13,600 jobs in the highest cost year of 2013 — but contends that the new rule will contribute to the growth of green jobs.

“In the long run, what you are going to see is the California fleet is going to be more modern, more efficient and new industries are going to spring up,” White said, though he conceded that he hasn’t been able to calculate the number of new jobs.

What Do You Think of The Discovery Bay Ferry Plan?

SCMP – Updated on Dec 11, 2008

By reducing the Discovery Bay ferry service, the passenger levels on each boat will be higher, making the system more efficient in terms of the highly polluting marine diesel that is being used.

Look at the cost in diesel used to transport one person from Discovery Bay to Central and compare that with the cost for a bus using zero-sulfur diesel to Sunny Bay and then for the MTR. Therefore I must agree with any reduction in the use of marine diesel.

As to costs, I drive to work and the cost of fuel has increased by more than 30 per cent in the past two years.

Even with the recent decreases the cost is still up. So I agree with the cost increase as well.

Discovery Bay residents should look outside their oyster shell and keep their whining within the confines of their shell. The residents made the choice to live there. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

Please don’t bother us with your problems all the time. Hong Kong is bigger than Discovery Bay.

Terry Greene, Yuen Long

Cruise Terminal May Worsen Air

SCMP – Updated on 10 December 2008

Development of a cruise terminal at the old airport at Kai Tak might worsen air quality, says the environmental impact assessment report. The report, released yesterday for public comment, said fuel burned by cruisers berthing at the terminal might become an air-pollution threat to a tourism complex nearby. To mitigate the impact, the report said the government was considering building an onshore power supply.

Smog Chokes Beijing Despite Traffic Caps

Shi Jiangtao in Beijing, SCMP – Updated on Dec 09, 2008

Beijing saw some of its worst air pollution in the past six months yesterday, with its skyline engulfed in a blanket of smog.

This followed a brief respite during the Olympic Games, when prolonged traffic bans were put in place to clear the air.

The air pollution index, which measures air quality from noon to noon, reached 169, considered “slightly polluted” by national standards. Statistics from the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau showed 27 out of 28 monitoring stations across the capital recorded figures designated as “slightly polluted” or “polluted”.

It was the third highest pollution level recorded since the Beijing Olympics, and came just days after the authorities declared Beijing had reached a self-imposed target number of clear-sky days for this year, thanks to the capital’s all-out effort to cut pollution ahead of the Games.

The capital cleared its smog-plagued air just in time for the Olympics with a series of temporary measures, such as pulling half the city’s 3.3 million cars off the road, halting construction and closing factories.

But with success comes higher public expectations for good air quality, prompting questions over the government’s ability to stamp out pollution, analysts said.

Choking smog had returned to the city of 17 million soon after strict anti-pollution regulations were lifted at the end of the Paralympics in September.

Under pressure, city authorities adopted a watered-down version of the Olympic traffic rules, banning private cars from roads on one weekday every week.

But the new restrictions have not worked.

The air pollution index reached 176 on October 18 and hit a six-month high of 186 on November 12.

Zhu Tong , an environmental expert at Peking University, said the existing restrictions did little to reduce emissions of airborne particles and sulfur dioxide from tens of thousands of coal-fired boilers, the main source of pollution in winter.

“Beijing still has a long way to go to convert coal-fuelled boilers and use clean energy,” Professor Zhu said.

He said stagnant weather conditions, meaning little wind or rainfall, had also worked against anti-pollution efforts.

Environmentalists and local residents have long cast doubts over the lasting environmental impact of the Olympics and the authorities’ promise that clear skies would remain after the Games.

Last week, Beijing said it had reached its target number of 256 “blue-sky days” this year, compared with 100 clear-sky days in 1998.

The central government has spent more than 150 billion yuan (HK$169 billion) in the past decade to clean up pollution in the capital.

Bus Services Should Reflect Changing Needs

Dec 08, 2008 – Leader

Our buses are a marvel of functionality on the city’s choked main thoroughfares, helping to keep people moving almost anywhere they want to go. They are an integral part of a safe, affordable public transport system that is the envy of most other places. Moves to streamline the services to meet the city’s changing needs are therefore welcome. But as we report today, they also face resistance.

Bus services, once confined to one operator on each side of the harbour, have proliferated even as the MTR trains have spread their reach underneath them. Compared with other large cities, travellers are often spoilt for choice. It is not surprising that there is room for streamlining, by removing or reducing some services that are duplicated and/or underused. The benefits of such a move include fewer buses contributing to congestion, and cleaner roadside air. People readily agree that would be a good thing, subject of course to the nimby (not in my backyard) syndrome. For the sake of their own convenience, they do not want services that run past their homes to be affected. Some even cite emotional attachment as a reason for keeping an old bus service. As a result, government officials find that however strong the case for cancelling or reducing a bus service on economic and environmental grounds, it can take years of lobbying to convince councils and residents to accept it.

There is no reason to suppose that a proposal to remove or reduce services on more than half the 26 bus routes that serve Eastern District will be any different. As we report today, a district councillor says the council is unlikely to accept such a “drastic” proposal. It is, however, only the beginning of the Transport Department’s route realignment plans for the 18 districts. The aim is to consolidate and reduce the number of buses that converge on major arteries such as King’s, Hennessy and Nathan roads. A government source rightly says that in King’s Road, for example, the choice of dozens of lines, all more or less going along the same route, does nothing for air quality or the economics of bus operations, not to mention traffic flow. Advisers to the government on air-quality objectives have suggested a 10 per cent cut in total bus trips by 2010 through route rationalisation.

The government’s policy intentions are good, but will challenge its powers of persuasion. The question is how to strike a balance with people’s desire for easy access to the most direct route to where they want to go. In such a densely populated, highly mobile society, tailoring transport services to demand is a constant priority. Reversing over-servicing can be politically difficult. But it could be made more palatable by a modern network of bus interchanges that offer flexibility in its place. An example is the airport route, serviced by buses that are often near empty. Granted, air travellers with luggage want the convenience of a direct route to the airport. But the wasteful, polluting use of resources could be reduced by an interchange at, say, Tsing Yi, where buses from all over could feed passengers to frequent departures for the airport.

The controversy over reclamation for the Central-Wan Chai bypass is a reminder that we cannot go on building new roads to improve traffic flow. Experience shows that they tend to create more traffic to fill them. Innovative solutions are called for to make better use of the roads we have. Bus interchanges that offer a pleasant, convenient experience and frequent, reliable services that meet demand could enhance the role that public transport plays in keeping us on the move.

Water Front Bike Ride For a Pollution Free Hong Kong 3

from Sheung Wan to Shau Kei Wan

Supported by :

HK Cycling Alliance

Sunday 7th December 2008 Time : 14:00 to 17:00
Press meeting place : 14:00 Cadogan Street Temporary Garden Kennedy Town

To highlight the growing demand for bicycle paths and concrete measures to reduce air pollution, as well as to make the harbour front more enjoyable to the public, the third such Waterfront Bikeride will take place on the 7th Dec. 08, starting at 14:00 from Western, Gadogan Street to Eastern, Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter.

A petition will be circulated among participants to the ride and the public that will ask relevant government departments the inclusion of bicycle paths along the harbour to answer the growing aspirations of the public for a pollution free Hong Kong and a bicycle friendly harbour front.

The petition together with collected signatures will be presented to the Harbour Enhancement Committee, consultant, to the Town Planning Board. The Bike Ride serves to show that Hong Kong people in par with residents of other major harbour cities feel the need to enjoy individual, pollution free, transportation provided by bicycles on the condition that the infrastructure exists to make it safe. In this regard, Hong Kong lags far behind other Asian cities like : Osaka, Shanghai, Singapore, and KaoHsiung, that have understood this growing trend from their urban residents, to allow for bicycles a right to safely move in the city, which Hong Kong hasn’t.

Hong Kong side town planning doesn’t yet allow the right for safe bicycle transportation and this Third Bikeride is intended to show Government the appropriateness of such mode of transportation in a modern metropolis.

The trend for more environmentally friendly urban lifestyles are nowhere ignored from Europe to North America and from South America to China, so it rests on the Hong Kong authorities to provide for such bicycle friendly infrastructure in its town planning blueprint to answer the legitimate aspiration of its residents for a cleaner and healthier city.

燒脂零排放,香港更健康 ‘Burn Fat, Not Oil’ for Pollution Free Hong Kong
3rd ride of Water-front Bike-ride for Pollution Free Hong Kong’

Ride route:
2:00 Assemble / press briefing Gadogan Street Temporary Garden, Kennedy Town
2:30 Depart from Gadogan Street Temporary Garden, Kennedy Town
3:30 15mins Break Golden Bauhinia Square (to join riders from Kowloon)
3:45 Depart From Golden Bauhinia Square
4:45 Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter
5:00 Closing of event.