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CE criticised over air quality objectives

South China Morning Post – 12 Jan, 2012

A think tank has criticised Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for failing to update Hong Kong’s air quality objectives.

The Civic Exchange group said there had been more than 7,000 local deaths related to air pollution during the seven years Tsang has been in charge.

The group’s chief executive, Christine Loh Kung-wai, said China’s recent launch of a consultation on updating its air quality objectives would put pressure on the Hong Kong government, which has yet to update its own 24-year-old aims despite a pledge by Tsang last year to take action.

“The mainland is much more aggressive than Hong Kong in dealing with setting air quality objectives… Hong Kong’s senior officials lack the understanding and courage to set demanding [objectives] and use them,” she said.

The criticism followed last week’s disclosure by the Environmental Protection Department that last year’s roadside air pollution levels were the worst on record.

Civic Exchange’s head of environmental strategy, Mike Kilburn, said the government’s refusal to update standards could affect future infrastructure projects.

“The Environmental Protection Department has delivered some successful initiatives, but a failure to manage nitrogen oxide has undermined these successes and poses new threats to the community.”

High nitrogen oxide concentrations can occur in locations where emissions from ageing diesel buses, trucks, poorly maintained taxis and minibuses gather.

Kilburn said levels of the atmospheric compound are now “so high that any future development generating additional nitrogen oxide emissions, such as the third runway [at Hong Kong International Airport], is unlikely to comply with the standards required and could not legally go ahead”.

A consultation on updating Hong Kong’s air quality objectives ended two years ago The government has said it will introduce the new standards to the Legislative Council as soon as possible. The government also hopes the recently introduced ban on idling engines will help reduce air pollution.

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