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Air Quality Objectives to be updated for better air quality

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Government will adopt proposed new Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) together with a package of air quality improvement measures, drawn up based on the results of public consultation, to better protect public health.

Speaking at a press conference today (January 17), the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, said thatfresh air is an essential part of a quality living environment and is vital to people’s health as well as maintaining the competitiveness of Hong Kong.

The Government will start preparatory work on the amendment of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance with an aim to table the Amendment Bill in the 2012-13 session of the Legislative Council. Taking account of the lead time for completing the legislative process and other necessary preparatory work, including formulation of modelling guidelines and compilation of emissions inventories, it is expected that the proposed new AQOs would take effect in 2014.

The Government will review the practicability of the tightened AQOs every five years and formulate the air quality improvement package accordingly.

In 2007, the Government commissioned a consultancy study to review Hong Kong’s existing AQOs and develop a long-term air quality management strategy.

Taking into account the World Health Organization (WHO)’s new guidelines and practices in other advanced countries, the review proposed a set of new AQOs benchmarked against the WHO’s Interim Targets and Air Quality Guidelines, accompanied by a host of proposed air quality improvement measures that are required to help Hong Kong achieve the new objectives.

The new AQOs (see Annex A) are comparable to those being adopted by the European Union and the United States.

To attain the new AQOs as soon as practicable, the Government has drawn up 19 air quality improvement measures (see Annex B) and has been pressing ahead with implementation of measures over which the community has wider consensus. In addition, the Government has put forward additional improvement initiatives targeting the problem of roadside nitrogen dioxide.

Further measures include retrofitting Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions. In addition, the Government has introduced the use of roadside remote sensing equipment and dynamometers for emissions testing to strengthen control of emissions from petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles. The Government is also working on measures to reduce marine emissions to further improve air quality.

Having considered carefully the need to preserve the integrity of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) system as an ongoing mechanism, as well as regulatory certainty for proponents of projects that have already completed the EIA process, the Government proposes to provide for a time-limited transitional period of 36 months from the commencement date of the new AQOs. During this transitional period, the new AQOs would not apply to an application for variation of an Environmental Permit.

To underscore the Government’s commitment to adopting the best practices as well as to provide greater certainty to works departments in planning new development projects, all Government projects for which EIA studies have not yet commenced would endeavour to adopt the proposed new AQOs as the benchmark for conducting air quality assessment under the EIA studies.

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