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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

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