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July 12th, 2013:

Air pollution ‘kills more than 2 million people every year’

Air pollution ‘kills more than 2 million people every year’

Climate change only partly to blame, say scientists, as sooty particles and ozone account for most deaths

Smog in Beijing

Pedestrians wear masks in Beijing as the city is engulfed in smog and air quality is rated ‘hazardous’. Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA

More than 2 million deaths occur globally each year as a direct result of air pollution from human activity, a team of international scientists has said.

But climate change has only made a small contribution to the lethal effects, according to the study published on Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

It suggests that 2.1 million people die after inhaling fine sooty particles called PM2.5s generated by diesel engines, power plants and coal fires.

Another 470,000 are thought to be killed by high levels of ozone, created when vehicle exhaust gases react with oxygen.

Dr Jason West from the University of North Carolina said: “Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health.

“Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in east Asia and south Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe.”

Climate change since 1850 has only led to 1,500 extra deaths from ozone and 2,200 from PM2.5 particulates, according to the research.

The scientists used climate computer models to simulate concentrations of ozone and PM2.5s in the years 2000 and 1850. Epidemiological studies were then used to assess how the levels related to worldwide death rates.

Dangerous global warming could be reversed, say scientists

Dangerous global warming could be reversed, say scientists

A combination of burning trees for energy and capturing and storing carbon dioxide could offset and even reverse emissions

Path of global warming

The bioenergy and CCS method is the most cost-effective way of tackling carbon emissions, say scientists. Photograph: Vinay Dithajohn/EPA

Global warming could be reversed using a combination of burning trees and crops for energy, and capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground (CCS), according to an analysis by scientists. But experts cautioned that trying such an approach after temperatures had passed dangerous levels could be problematic, as climate change reduced the number of trees available for “bioenergy”.

The bioenergy and CCS method was the most cost-effective way of tackling carbon emissions, said the team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, publishing their research in the journal Environmental Research Letters on Thursday. Such an approach could offset and even reverse other emissions from fossil fuels, they claimed.

The lead author of the study, Prof Christian Azar, said it could help bring temperatures down even if they rose above the 2C level that world leaders have agreed to avoid: “Even if current political gridlock causes global warming in excess of 2C, we can reverse the temperature trend and reach targets later. This means that 2C targets, or even more ambitious targets, can remain on the table in international climate negotiations.”

He said that to achieve a reversal of temperatures, the combination of bioenergy and CCS would need to be combined with a huge expansion in renewable energy or nuclear power, in order to reduce emissions almost to zero. He also admitted that there was a political risk that the proposal’s ability to reverse rises at a late stage could be used as an excuse for short-term inaction on emissions.

CCS technology has been tested successfully on small-scale trials, but is still unproven at commercial scale anywhere in the world. Environmentalists have also questioned the carbon benefits of burning trees for power, saying that in some cases the “lifecycle” emissions are worse than coal.

Dr Vivian Scott of Scottish Carbon Capture Storage at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved with the research, said that the basis for the research’s conclusion was sound, but he warned it should not be interpreted “as a ‘get out of jail free’ card in 50 years’ time” and the idea could be hamstrung by climate change itself.

“As shown in this work, Beccs [Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage] could offer a way back from exceeding climate targets. However, there are potentially huge consequences to allowing an overshoot [of those targets]. A warmer climate for even a limited period could profoundly alter meteorological and ecological systems – changes which could perhaps even restrict the ability to produce the biomass on which we might be reliant to reduce the atmospheric carbon dioxide content,” he said.

He also said that reducing carbon emissions to zero could be a major challenge, given the track record of previous efforts to cut carbon: “Progress in addressing emissions has been woefully slow – the International Energy Agency recently announced that the average amount of carbon dioxide produced for each unit of energy generated has barely changed in the period 1990 – 2010 … in essence all the emissions mitigation efforts to date have achieved almost nothing”.

Air pollution ‘worsening’ in HK – study

Air pollution ‘worsening’ in HK – study



Clean Air Network’s chief executive Sum Kwong.

Dangerous pollution. File photo.

Worsening air pollution in Hong Kong has resulted in more than 1,600 premature deaths in the first half of the year, according to a new study by the Clean Air Network. It says there’s been an ‘alarming’ rise in the amount of marine emissions from Kwai Chung.

In an analysis of government data, the group found that levels of all monitored pollutants exceeded the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines.

And levels of nitrogen dioxide – an indicator of roadside air pollution – have increased by up to 22 percent.

Govt forced to delay landfill plan

Govt forced to delay landfill plan


Tuen Mun residents protesting against landfill expansion outside Legco. Photo: RTHK.

The government has been forced to delay its plans to expand the landfills at Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling, after legislators voted to adjourn funding debates for the controversial projects.

Lawmakers who supported the adjournment say putting off the debates will give the government more time to consult affected residents.

The Environment Secretary, Wong Kam-sing, said he was disappointed by the outcome, and the government will resubmit the proposals to the Legislative Council “at an appropriate time”.

Earlier, more than 50 people staged an overnight, 24-hour hunger strike outside the Legislative Council building against the landfill plan.

They said the government had never consulted anyone who might be affected by the plan, adding that expansion of the Tuen Mun landfill would have a huge impact on the surrounding environment.

HK government fails to pass controversial landfill extension proposals

Friday, 12 July, 2013, 7:30pm

NewsHong Kong

Lai Ying-kit

· landfillchitchit.jpg

Lawmakers vote on Friday in the Legislative Council on the government’s landfill extension funding proposals. Photo: Felix Wong

The Hong Kong government has failed to obtain funding for its controversial proposals to extend two landfills after lawmakers on Friday deferred indefinitely a debate on them.

At Friday’s finance committee meeting, lawmakers in the Legislative Council narrowly passed the motions to halt a debate, soon after it started, on the government’s funding requests for the Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling landfill extension projects.

The two motions to stop the debate were passed by 32 to 28 and 31 to 29. Both motions had been raised by Liberal Party’s James Tien Pei-chun.

Friday’s developments mean that all three of the government’s landfill extension proposals have failed to pass in Legco. Officials had earlier withdrawn a proposal to extend the Tseung Kwan O dump due to strong objections in the area.

The two funding proposals defeated on Friday involved HK$35 million intended to launch a feasibility study to expand the Tuen Mun landfill and HK$7 billion to begin the landfill extension project at the Ta Kwu Ling site.

The government can retable the three proposals no earlier than October when the summer recess ends.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has said the expansions are urgently needed as existing waste facilities will be exhausted in the coming years.

But the extension proposals met strong opposition from residents and district councillors, especially those in Tuen Mun, because of environmental and nuisance concerns.

The government’s proposals were put at risk in Legco when a number of usually pro-government legislators vowed to oppose them.

In a rare move, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Thursday went to a Tuen Mun District Council meeting in a last-minute effort to shore up support for the plan, but she failed to persuade the council to support it.


Tuen Mun landfill

Source URL (retrieved on Jul 12th 2013, 9:49pm):

Lawmaker to call for Legco to delay Tuen Mun landfill debate

Friday, 12 July, 2013, 3:45pm

NewsHong Kong

Lai Ying-kit

A legislator is planning to propose that lawmakers defer indefinitely Friday’s discussion and possible vote on a controversial proposal to fund a study on the expansion of the Tuen Mun landfill.

Democratic Party’s Wu Chi-wai said he would raise a motion to abort the debate, scheduled for the finance committee meeting in the Legislative Council on Friday afternoon, concerning the government’s request for HK$35 million to fund the study.

The funding request proposal has met strong opposition from political parties and residents who say Tuen Mun is home to a number of noxious facilities and cannot take anymore.

Ten Tuen Mun residents have been on a hunger strike outside the Legco building in Admiralty since Thursday.

Another lawmaker, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has filed hundreds of amendments in a filibuster also aimed at getting the government to withdraw the proposal.

Wu, who has also prepared 40 amendments, said the debate was expected to be long and it would be better for all if the government postponed it to an unspecified later time so other proposals would not be held up.

Liberal Party’s James Tien Pei-chun said he supported Wu’s idea.

Legco finance committee Cheung Yu-yan said on Friday it was unlikely the debate would be completed and the proposal put to a vote before Legco’s summer recess, given the many amendments.

The fate of the landfill extension plan remained uncertain.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Thursday went to a Tuen Mun District Council meeting in a last-minute effort to shore up support for the plan, but she failed to persuade the council to support it.


Tuen Mun landfill


Carrie Lam’s landfill plea to Tuen Mun council falls on deaf ears

Friday, 12 July, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Ada Lee and Cheung Chi-fai

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has failed to persuade the Tuen Mun District Council to support a landfill extension study, despite her renewed commitment to previously pledged sweeteners.

At a special council meeting that the chief secretary attended with environment minister Wong Kam-sing, councillors told them to withdraw the plan.

The best option now is for the government to withdraw the request. If so there is no need for a filibuster and all will end in 15 minutes instead of 30 hours

They also passed a motion urging lawmakers to veto the government’s request today for HK$35 million for a feasibility study on extending the Tuen Mun tip.

Even councillors affiliated with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, whose legislators have pledged to support the plan, joined the opposition.

Earlier in the day, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said “Tuen Mun residents are owed” for their tolerance of polluting facilities in their district.

He also said that past planning standards and mindset could not be applied in planning Tuen Mun’s future development. But his attempt to offer words of comfort proved futile.

After the council meeting, Lau Wong- fat, council chairman and a legislator said he would vote against the funding at today’s meeting of the Legislative Council Finance Committee that will discuss the funding.

His six fellow lawmakers from the Business and Professionals Alliance will decide this morning how to vote.

“The best option now is for the government to withdraw the request. If so there is no need for a filibuster and all will end in 15 minutes instead of 30 hours,” he said.

Radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has said he will mount a filibuster at today’s meeting, the last in this legislative session.

Lam said the landfill was necessary under the principle of “shared responsibility and differentiated care”.

“It is wrong to accuse us of being biased against Tuen Mun residents,” she said.

Lam described as “unsatisfactory” progress on 10 shortlisted district-improvement measures promised in 2009 after the council gave conditional support to a sludge incinerator.

She said the Highways Department had promised to complete in two years an upgrade of Nim Wan Road, a key access route to the landfill, while a crematorium site in the district would be rezoned.

Lam will also seek extra money for a footbridge that was put on hold because of a lack of funding.

But she could not promise a rail link between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan – now served by light rail.


Tuen Mun landfill