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Clearly, he’s insincere

South China Morning Post – 18 Jan 2012

Why is it that whenever Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah speaks about the quality of Hong Kong’s air you get the impression he means the opposite to what he says. At yesterday’s press conference announcing that the government would implement new air quality objectives (AQOs), he said it was, “A clear demonstration that the government and the community is very eager and keen to update the air quality objectives”.

This is presumably why, under his leadership, the government did nothing for two years after public consultation on the AQOs, and why his department dragged its feet so much it had to be told by the ombudsman to get a move on. Now it’s going to take another two years to implement them.

Yau reeks of insincerityIndeed, so sincere is the government that it will allow environmental impact assessments for infrastructure projects to use the current outdated air quality standards. This is not a government “eager and keen” to clean Hong Kong’s air.

It follows publication of a report on the government’s record on cleaning the air by the Civic Exchange think tank last week. It also coincides with the release of an updated Hedley Environmental Index, which reveals the average annual number of avoidable deaths attributable to air pollution over the last five years was 3,200, more than three times the previous annual estimates of 1,000 avoidable deaths.

“Even though the these new figures are substantially higher, the truly frightening thing about them is that they are still conservative figures that account for only short-term health impacts of Hong Kong’s air pollution,” said the index’s author, Anthony Hedley.

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