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Will Guangdong Meet 2010 Emission Reduction Targets?

Lawmakers sceptical that HK, Guangdong will meet 2010 emission reduction targets

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Jan 14, 2009

Lawmakers remain worried that Hong Kong and Guangdong will not meet their 2010 targets for emission reductions, despite figures showing they are making progress.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department says emissions of three of the four pollutants are on track to meet the targets – reductions from 1997 levels of between 20 and 55 per cent. The odd one out is sulfur dioxide. Emissions in 2007 were 3 per cent above their 1997 level.

“I am very pessimistic about whether we will be able to meet the targets as we have just two to three years left,” said Democrat legislator Lee Wing-tat at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on improving air quality yesterday. Other legislators said officials had not taken air pollution seriously.

Liberal Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who represents the transport sector, said the lawmakers should take the lead in fighting air pollution by minimising car use when commuting to the Legislative Council in Central.

Undersecretary for the Environment Kitty Poon Kit said the government was confident the city could meet the targets once power plants, the largest emitters of sulfur dioxide, finished desulfurisation in the next few months. Dr Poon said the government would consult the public about a review of air quality standards by the middle of the year.

Critics say the city’s 22-year-old air quality objectives do not safeguard public health. The government intends to adopt interim targets set by the World Health Organisation.

Meanwhile, a coalition of road transport operators has called on the government to withdraw its proposal to ban idling vehicle engines, saying it would hurt their business and would not improve air quality.

However, the number of hours in which street-level pollution exceeded danger levels in three of the city’s most crowded areas rose by an average of 14 per cent last year. In Causeway Bay, the increase was more than 40 per cent.

The coalition, comprising at least six taxi groups and transport unions, is circulating a petition and does not rule out stronger protests.

Coalition spokesman Chung Kin-wah said: “There is no room for negotiation.”

Mr Chung said the ban would lead to operating difficulties for commercial vehicles and enforcement problems and endanger drivers and passengers.

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