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Higher fees eyed to drive polluting trucks off road

polluting truckLast updated: March 11 ,2010

Source: South China Morning Post

They dangled a carrot, but too few bit.

Now environment officials are considering wielding a stick to get heavily polluting old trucks off the city’s streets.

They have decided to resurrect as soon as possible a proposal to increase licence fees for trucks and vans 15 or more years old, to discourage people from keeping the vehicles.

Under the proposal, higher fees would apply to dirtier vehicles such as those made before the Euro 1 standard, which placed limits on emitted pollutants, took effect in 1995.

Those older vehicles could be as much as 20 times more polluting than those covered by the latest version of the standard, Euro 4, introduced in 2006.

The government launched a subsidy in 2007 to encourage owners to replace diesel vans and trucks that were either covered by Euro 1 (before it was replaced by Euro 2 in 1998) or had been built before it took effect.

The scheme, which will expire at the end of this month, has had limited success. While only about 13,000 owners have taken up the grant and a further 8,000 eligible vehicles have since been deregistered at the end of their useful lives, 38,500 of the dirty vehicles still roam the city’s streets.

That is why officials hope to revive the proposal to penalise owners of those heavily polluting vehicles with higher licence fees, which was snubbed by lawmakers when it was tabled for discussion in late 2008 amid the global economic crisis.

Dr Kitty Poon Kit, the undersecretary for the environment, told lawmakers on the Subcommittee on Improving Air Quality yesterday that the Environment Bureau would not extend the initial subsidy scheme but would instead launch a HK$540 million scheme covering vehicles under the stricter Euro 2 emission standard.

“We believe sufficient time has been allowed to replace the pre-Euro and Euro 1 models, and it is time to move on to the next,” she said.

At the same time, Poon said, the bureau wanted to introduce “as early as possible” licence fee increases to discourage people from running old vehicles. But she offered no timetable.

Johnson Li, secretary general of the Motor Traders Association, said a buyout of older vehicles might get them off the road more quickly.

“How big a licence fee hike is needed to make owners of old trucks scrap their vehicles? A few thousand dollars will not make a difference, but an increase of a few times would be unreasonable,” he said.

Li suggested that the government issue cash or coupons to the owners for future purchases of cleaner vehicles. Such coupons could be transferable, he said.

Stanley Chiang Chi-wai, chairman of the Lok Ma Chau China-Hong Kong Freight Association, said his group would oppose licence fee increases, because the government had failed to provide enough incentives for owners to replace their old vehicles.

Chiang said many truck owners had not taken up the subsidy because the business environment had been poor. They were waiting for a better time to replace their vehicles, he said.

Annelise Connell, a spokeswoman for Mini Spotters, which monitors smoky vehicles on the road, said the government should make it mandatory for all old vehicles to be tested regularly and it should revoke the licences of those that failed the test.

Written by Cheung Chi-fai

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