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Not Convinced By Government Claims Over Pollution Battle

Updated on Apr 29, 2008 – SCMP

Edwin Lau Che-feng, of Friends of the Earth, is right to publicly discount the government’s recent self-praise regarding its “cost” of environmental improvements in the transport sector for this city (“War on dirty vehicles has cost HK$10b in past eight years”, April 24).

We should not feel comforted by these figures. In fact, the government has done little for us in the past five years. What it has done, however, is subsidise the transport industry greatly, at a cost to all of us.

Without “sticks”, or penalties for making improvements, the government’s incentives for “voluntary” conversions of old diesel vehicles will hardly make a difference. To date, we still have more than 40 per cent of the local minibuses with old diesel engines, because the incentives and penalties are not enough to have them change. We still have more than 6,000 pre-Euro-II buses on our streets and only now is the government considering taking the extremely dirty ones out of the main urban areas. In fact, the government has given them another 10 years to operate on our roads with no mandates of improved emission technology. Out of the “cost” of HK$10 billion, a magical HK$8.8 billion of this is “forgone” revenue from diesel concessions. This is contrary to many countries which impose diesel taxes and use that revenue for the advancement of clean technologies and fuels. Clean diesel brings little benefit to the more than 70,000 pre-Euro-III diesel vehicles plying our streets, because their engines are not efficient enough to get the full impact of the clean diesel being introduced. We are being manipulated into thinking this is good for us. This “HK$8.8 billion” has not even been spent.

Had it been spent, it would amount to under HK$40 per person per year used for environmental improvements – hardly enough to change our air. Instead, each one of us is paying the “cost” of the government’s inactions and its subsidies to the transport industry that come with this government-supported pollution. This includes developed-world-beating asthma rates and constricted property prices. When will a hero from the government emerge to figure all of these issues out?

Douglas Woodring, Mid-Levels

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