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Getting Rail Travel Back On Track

Story Highlights

  • Rail companies and urban planners often cite the green credentials of trains
  • Building energy efficient trains is not cheap and can take time to recoup costs
  • Making travel affordable as well as efficient is key to attract travelers

By Rachel Oliver – For CNN – 2nd June

(CNN) — The first ever U.S. National Train Day on May 10 was a celebration that may have passed many Americans by. But why create a day to celebrate trains?

According to Amtrak, which was behind the event, trains are more energy-efficient than cars or planes so should be celebrated and actively encouraged as the ideal mode of transport among today’s travelers.

This isn’t the first time that the train has been pitched as one potential answer to the world’s transport-related environmental woes.

In June last year, Greenpeace went as far as offering free train tickets to British Airways (BA) passengers in protest at the increasing number of short-haul flights the airline was offering out of the UK.

And when Germany declared it wanted to become the most energy-efficient country in the world by 2020, one of the ways it said it was planning to do this was by encouraging its citizens to ditch the plane and take the train.

The Nature Conservancy, which calls flying “the opposite of green” on its web site, says by opting for train journeys your passenger mile emissions could be anywhere from 4 percent to 15 percent of those you would generate by flying the same distance, depending on the length of the trip and the efficiency of the train service.

According to Eurostar, by taking one of their cross-Channel trains between London and Paris or Brussels, you would be emitting 10 times less carbon dioxide than if you flew.

“Definitely, if used as a new basis of transport, trains use less energy and are more efficient at reducing pollution,” says Professor Shen Jianfa, who works in the Department of Geography and Resource Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

“But you have two things to consider — the cost of transport and its efficiency if compared to bus or truck. For long distances rail is more efficient.”

Some not buying the green ticket

But some warn that taking the train does not always equate to a completely green option.

The Cato Institute recently argued that the majority of America’s rail transit lines as a whole are less energy-efficient on a passenger mile basis than you might think.

In an April 2008 report Cato said the U.S.’s train lines “generate more greenhouse gases than the average passenger automobile,” before adding,”rail transit provides no guarantee that a city will save energy or meet greenhouse gas targets.”

It cites one main problem as “feeder” bus operations that are set up to carry passengers between train stations or on to their final destinations. When they are operating at low capacity, these buses can counteract any environmental gains you may have made with train travel, Cato says.

But CUHK’s Shen argues that having a half empty feeder bus has to be preferable to all those passengers using their cars instead.

“You have to provide a shuttle bus to get people home, but this depends on the population density of the city,” he says.

“If people are living in a large area with low density then a railway line can’t reach all the people. There has to be a point where it is more efficient to have feeder buses.”

Cato also cites the issues of constructing and maintaining rail lines, which it says would take “many decades of energy savings” to recover the original energy costs involved.

And then there is the issue of what fuel you use to power the train in the first place.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently took trains and ships to task by imposing stringent new emissions standards that will now force up to 21,000 diesel-powered trains to slash their soot emissions by 90 percent and nitrogen oxide emission by 80 percent.

According to the EPA web site, diesel-powered trains “are significant contributors to air pollution in many of [the country’s] cities and ports.”

In Asia, however, the train systems tend to be powered by electricity, making them by and large a cleaner option than equivalent train journeys in the U.S.

That being said, where that electricity is coming from is still a cause for concern, Shen says.

Along the line [in China] it is electric but obviously you need to know where the electricity is coming from,” he says.

For China as a whole they rely very much on coal.

All aboard – if the price is right

Keeping train fares low is key to making any train service a success and government subsidies are key here, argues Christine Loh, chief executive of Hong Kong independent think tank, Civic Exchange.

“The government should pay for the construction cost of the rail line so that fares will be kept low,” she says, referring to Hong Kong’s need for a more extensive rail system.

Because trains, particularly clean ones, don’t always come cheap.

Japan recently laid claim to the world’s first diesel hybrid train, but its creators, East Japan Railway told the AP news service that the Kiha 200 train cost $1.7 million to build — twice as expensive as their standard trains.

And that’s small change when you look at the cost of Shanghai’s first ever maglev train – a train that literally glides over the track without making contact, powered by magnetic levitation technology.

As maglev trains cannot travel along traditional rail tracks, new ones have to build – and in the case of the 30 kilometer line between Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and the city center – at a cost of $1.2 billion, according to China Daily.

Cost is the main reason Shen believes more subway or overground lines have been slow to appear in Hong Kong, a small high density city with one of the lowest car ownership rates in the world – but which still suffers from high levels of pollution.

“The government has a strategy on paper to build more rail lines but building more MTR lines is very expensive compared to highways,” Shen points out.

But train lines are becoming a necessity for growing Asian cities that are becoming more crowded with more traffic congestion and pollution.

“In places like Beijing and Shanghai, we are seeing an increase in private cars but over the last few years the city governments have been realizing that they can’t rely on cars for transport because of the congestion,” Shen says.

“China is being very ambitious in expanding the rail network. In the next 10 years the rail network will be doubled,” he adds, citing the government’s plans to build an express rail between Beijing and Shanghai in addition to one between Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

“Efficient, cheap and extensive rail systems are attractive to large cities,” adds Loh.

And if you want to see an example of that in action, she says look no further than Tokyo.

“This is a large metropolis that is densely populated. The government’s choice was to build an extensive subway/rail system that is cheap and efficient to ensure it is the backbone of the public transportation system,” Loh explains.

“Buses are complementary to the rail system, and taxis are extremely expensive. Driving to work is prohibitive for most workers. Japan also makes sure old vehicle models are retired periodically so there are no highly polluting old vehicles on the roads.

“This package of measures work,” says Loh.

No Friends Of The Earth

Southeast Asia – Apr 22, 2008 – Online Asia Times

By Muhammad Cohen

HONG KONG – The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali last December generated extraordinary enthusiasm about global warning and put environmentalism at the top of the mainstream agenda for the first time in years. The Bali meeting brought worldwide consensus – albeit loose, broad and unspecific – that something needed to be done about climate change.

Within days of the Bali breakthrough, activists from environmental group Greenpeace were speeding toward Antarctica, ground zero for global warming, with an embedded BBC reporter aboard. The polar ice caps are melting at accelerating rates, and some islands, nestled thousands of kilometers north in the tropical Pacific Ocean are already at risk due to rising sea levels. The environmental activists it seemed could reinforce and extend the message of the Bali conference, with testimony from this critical climate battleground.

Except that the Greenpeace activists aboard MV Esperanza weren’t there to talk about global warming. They were there to stop Japan – a critical player in climate change on several fronts – from conducting its annual whale hunt. Greenpeace planned to tail the Japanese whaling boats, hoping to harass and shame them into stop killing whales. Global warming was not on their agenda.

Environmental activists from Australia-based Sea Shepherd were also pursuing the Japanese fleet, promising “direct action” to stop the hunt. A Sea Shepherd craft collided with a Japanese spotter vessel during the 2007 whaling season, both parties blaming the other for the incident. This year, Sea Shepherd’s leader Paul Watson, formerly of Greenpeace, took a “no-ramming” pledge. Yet on January 15, a pair of giddy Sea Shepherd protesters boarded a Japanese ship, Yushin Maru No 2, saying that they wanted to deliver a protest letter.

Given Sea Shepherd’s violent history, it’s hard to blame Yushin Maru’s commander for chaining his uninvited guests to a deck rail and calling them “terrorists”. Terrorist was the right word, but for the wrong reasons. The dedicated activists had crafted a reminder of all that’s wrong with the environmental movement. Their adolescent grandstanding on the culturally loaded fringe issue of whaling harpooned the reservoir of global goodwill on climate change generated in Bali.

Most critics of the environmental movement oppose its goals; they say global warming is “junk science” (Nobel Prize notwithstanding), extinction is a natural part of evolution, and that markets and science, supported by the wealth that would be destroyed if environmentalists had their way, will find solutions to today’s seemingly insoluble problems.

Global warming updates the 1960s question of balancing economic progress with resource depletion. Today we are still debating what to do about the internal combustion engine; how to preserve species, their habitats, and other areas of exceptional merit in the face of competing human needs. As we mark another Earth Day on Tuesday, it’s time to ask, paraphrasing a line from four decades ago, whether well-meaning, but often inept and misguided environmental activists, are part of the solution or part of the problem.

The Bali meeting and that Southern Ocean whaling sequel highlight several reasons environmentalism keeps extending its record of failure. More than 100 different environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were at the Bali climate change meeting. While the government representatives and other official delegates met in various working groups, there apparently wasn’t a single meeting during those two weeks (or during these past four decades) that brought together the all of environmental NGOs to craft a common message or strategy.

Occasionally a handful of NGOs would hold a joint press conference on some issue. But largely, the groups competed with each other for media attention to their messages that differed mainly in form and nuance rather than substance.

No, not a tuxedo …
I’m the last guy who wants to deny anyone the opportunity to wear a penguin suit in the tropical heat – a Bali stunt by Greenpeace, one of several NGOs that didn’t answer questions for this article. But imagine if these environmental groups had used the occasion to pool their seemingly boundless energy and map out a common strategy.

One reason that there are so many environmental groups is that they find it so hard to agree, or, rather, they find it so easy to disagree. Groups’ narrow focus and unwillingness to compromise hinder progress on core issues. A little flexibility could go a long way toward creating more practical approaches that are more likely to generate greater public support and better results for Mother Earth.

The environmental movement rarely offers ordinary developed world citizens a reasonable road map to join the battle. More often it demonizes them as dupes of the pollution industry, who to make right must don organically grown, fair trade sackcloth and ashes and give environmental groups money as penance. A more accommodating movement would stop using the word “corporation” as an accusation, yet wouldn’t see cooperation with business or government as an end in itself. Such a movement could be far more effective; at least, it couldn’t be much less effective.

Before and after Bali, the environmental movement had hundreds of groups moving in hundreds of different directions – virtually none of them seeking grassroots support. In the battle against global warming, environmental groups don’t really seem interested in grassroots support. Rather, they have something far more powerful on their side: the United Nations.

Another lost cause
Environmental groups have been given a place at the table – though mainly as jesters – in the UN climate change process. The groups have brought not just their plates and cups, but their laptops and sleeping bags. Aside from field projects, environmental groups seem to have completely aligned their climate change efforts with the UN process.

There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the UN process works. But the only precedent in the field is the Kyoto Protocol and that’s been a failure in two major respects. First, Kyoto has failed to reduce emissions. That may be because the top four greenhouse gas emitters – the US, China, Indonesia and Brazil – aren’t covered. China recently surpassed the US as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

“Concrete action in the United States is the key to getting the next international deal,” The Nature Conservancy’s director of international institutions and agreements Andrew Deutz said. “The history of international environmental politics since the 1970s shows that when the US acts first at home, it can lead abroad, as was the case with endangered species and marine pollution; when the US tries to negotiate internationally and then bring the results home for domestic action, it fails, as was the case with the Kyoto Protocol and the Biodiversity Convention.”

Justice for all, sacrifice for few
Yet environmental groups that have largely focused on pulling the US into the global regime are the same ones that won’t accept key US concerns. NGOs make “climate justice” a key plank: the US and other developed countries consumed and polluted at will for centuries, so developing countries deserve their chance for the sake of economic development and poverty alleviation. The US, on the other hand, says that all big emitters must share the burden, particularly when it comes to mandatory targets.

The next US administration is expected to be far more friendly to the climate change cause than the George W Bush administration but unlikely to concede this point may package it as “climate equity” or “shared sacrifice”. The UN process will likely produce an agreement without restrictions on developing countries and proposes standards well beyond what US voters will be ready to accept. If the US rejects that agreement, environmental groups will have a convenient enemy, but Mother Earth will face the inconvenient truth of the top four emitters still outside the global climate change regime.

The other major drawback to relying on the UN process is its lengthy timetable. Despite the drumbeat of warnings about the urgency of the issue, the current negotiations are scheduled to run until the end of 2009. Asked about progress since Bali – including a week-long follow-up meeting in Bangkok earlier this month – the head of climate change for London-based International Institute for Environment and Development Saleem Huq replied, “Not much. But that is to be expected as this is a slow negotiating process and no country will give ground so early in the process; all concessions and invariably made at the last minute and not before. That is the very nature of international negotiations.”

Any agreement will not take effect until 2012. The UN and the NGOs don’t seem to be in any rush. The past four decades have shown that environmental groups pay little price for their failures, but the planet does. This Earth Day – as heroic NGOs craft high-level agreements and statements that will extend their record of futility and evil corporations build hybrid vehicles and wind turbines – consider who now are really the friends of the Earth.

Former US diplomat Muhammad Cohen co-wrote Lonely Planet’s forthcoming guide to Borneo and is author of Hong Kong On Air (, a novel set during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie.

Bali talks


Bali talks

The UN secretary general and governments yesterday hailed a deal to start negotiations to adopt a new climate pact, but environmental groups said the agreement lacked teeth.

The deal binds the United States and China to greenhouse gas goals for the first time and a two-year agenda aims to lead to the adoption in Copenhagen in 2009 of a tougher, wider pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.

“This is the defining moment for me and my mandate as secretary general,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after the meeting in Bali.

“All the 188 countries have recognised that this is the defining agenda for all humanity, for all planet Earth.”

Environmental groups said the agreement lacked substance after the European Union abandoned wording urging rich countries to step up the fight against climate change.

Under US pressure, and to help get horse-trading started, the deal dodged the goal of halving emissions by 2050 or of embracing a commitment by industrialised economies to slash their emissions by 2020.

But delegates gave the US an ovation after the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter abruptly dropped last-minute opposition to Indian demands to soften developing nation commitments to a new pact.

“We now have one of the broadest negotiating agendas ever on climate change,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Developing nations welcomed the deal.

“Here in Bali we reached a consensus, global consensus for all countries,” said Hassan Wirayuda, Indonesia’s foreign minister.

“No single country was excluded, in a very inclusive process … we hope it will provide not only a good basis but also the momentum in the coming years.”

Canada backed the US view that developing countries had not offered enough. “One hundred and ninety countries are represented here; 38 of them agreed to take on national binding targets today, we’ve just got to work on some of the other 150,” John Baird, Canada’s environment minister, said.

The EU said it was satisfied with the deal, seeing as key the inclusion of Kyoto outsider, the United States.

“It was exactly what we wanted, we are indeed very pleased,” said the EU chief negotiator, Humberto Rosa.

The EU climbdown on targets was the chief disappointment of environmentalists, who had wanted goals matching what scientists say is most needed to limit rising temperatures.

“The Bush administration has unscrupulously taken a monkey wrench to the level of action on climate change that the science demands,” said Gerd Leipold, director of Greenpeace International.

David Doniger, climate policy director at the US Natural Resources Defence Council, said he was astounded at how the US behaved.

“They were completely isolated and it just shows how much the world wants a new face from the US on global warming.”

Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the US environmental group, the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, said the Bali deal was “the best possible under the circumstances”.

But, he cautioned: “We shouldn’t fool ourselves about how extraordinarily hard it’s going to be to meet that goal.”

Additional reporting by Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse

Key points

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
    It recognises that “deep cuts” in global emissions will be required. It references scientific reports that suggest a range of cuts between 25 per cent and 40 per cent by 2020, but prescribes no such targets itself.
  • Deadline
    Negotiations for the next climate accord should last for two years and conclude in 2009 in order to allow enough time to implement it at the end of 2012. Four major climate meetings will take place next year.
  • Rich and poor
    Negotiators should consider binding reductions of emissions by industrialised countries. Developing nations should consider controlling the growth of their emissions. Richer countries should work to transfer climate-friendly technology to poorer nations.
  • Adjusting to climate change
    Negotiators should look at supporting urgent steps to help poorer countries adapt to inevitable effects of global warming, such as building sea walls to guard against rising oceans.
  • Deforestation
    Negotiators should consider incentives for reducing deforestation in developing countries, many of which want compensation for preserving their forest “sinks”.

Pollution In Hong Kong: Between The Smog And The Deep Blue Sea

EC Newsdesk – 13th July 2006

Air pollution in Hong Kong is drawing noisy protests, but cutting the region’s huge consumption of dirty electricity – not least through residents’ passion for air conditioning – is a gargantuan ambition, writes Sam Chambers

Three years ago more than half a million Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest against perceived infringements of civil liberties by Beijing’s chosen leader for the former British colony, the now departed Tung Chee-hwa.

Today, politics is widely being disregarded in favour of protesting against the state of the air that Hong Kongers breathe.

A recent university study showed that Hong Kong is blanketed in smog on average 28 days a month.

For a long time, the rise of the Pearl River Delta as the manufacturing centre of the world – accounting for one third of China’s total exports – was cited begrudgingly and helplessly by Hong Kongers as the reason for their dirty air.

Now, armed with greater information on local firms – especially the two coal burning utilities, Hong Kong Electric and China Light and Power – the population is increasingly making its irritation heard.

One movement, Lights Out Hong Kong, wishes to create a public protest that will put the democracy marches into the shade.

The organisation, founded just two months ago, intends to ask the general public to turn off their residential and office lighting on 8 August at 8pm for three minutes.

Another organisation, Clean The Air, shows clearly how much Hong Kong is to blame for its own predicament.

Seventy per cent of roadside pollution comes from dirty vehicles and 50% of Hong Kongers live near a road. Half of Hong Kong’s pollution comes from the two power plants, and one third of the electricity they produce is used for air conditioning. Hong Kong has the coldest offices in the world.

Wrapping up warm

A survey released this spring by Dr Deng Shiming of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University indicated that most Hong Kong people like to have icy bedrooms, with 55% of those polled keeping their bedroom temperature as low as 22°C, far below the 25.5°C recommended by the government.

And 20% of those polled refrigerated their bedrooms at 20°C or below. But such wintry temperatures failed to provide comfort for the occupants – as 25% of those surveyed said they woke up at night shivering.

The study also found 50% of the respondents covered themselves with “air-con quilts” while having the air-con blasting.

Shiming, associate professor at the Department of Building Services Engineering, says: “Wrapping up in air-con quilts in summer is absurd. By choosing lighter coverings we can easily raise the bedroom temperature by up to 4°C without compromising our thermal comfort.”

Coal and cars

Greenpeace has made continued demonstrations against CLP, one of the two power station operators.

In 2005, CLP made HK$11.3 billion [£774 million] in profit, much of it from coal-powered electricity generation. The external cost of its coal-related business across Asia-Pacific this year rose 4% to HK$31.1 billion. The negative cost of the Castle Peak Power Station to the society is HK$13.5 billion,” says Chow Sze Chung, air pollution campaigner at Greenpeace.

Chows adds that 46,100 tons of sulphur dioxide were emitted as a result of CLP’s coal-burning in 2005.

“Sulphur dioxide will cause diseases in respiratory system, such as asthma and bronchitis, and is also a source of acid rain. All these external costs will inevitably damage the environment and poison Hong Kong people’s health,” he says.

A spokesperson for CLP maintains that as a result of fuel diversification and the installation of various scrubbers at its power plant, “between 1990 and 2005, CLP has reduced emissions of NOx, SO2 and particulates by 40% to 80%, despite an 80% rise in electricity demand during the period”. A move towards natural gas will further drive down emissions.

CLP’s counterpart, Hong Kong Electric, opened the SAR’s first wind turbine this year, up the hill from the coal-fired power station it operates on Lamma Island.

The gesture has been widely derided as a PR stunt with next to no effect on long-term improvement of the air quality of the region, since no further wind turbines have been mooted. CLP, meanwhile, has a set a renewable energy target of 5% by 2010.

Sam Chambers is a journalist based in Hong Kong.

Real Pollution Index

Thursday November 3 2005

Mark Chan (‘Let public know threat by revising air pollution index’, November 1) does not need to wait for the government to publish the real Air Pollution Index.

He can find it today – hour by hour – at Clear the Air and Greenpeace decided not to wait and started publishing the truth every day beginning last November. We take raw data from the Environmental Protection Department and calculate the API based on European Union standards.
In fact, the EPD has been boldly publishing the raw data for years. However, it has been deliberately prevented from reporting the proper API. (During the early days of Sars, a couple of concerned people posted on a website the buildings where Sars cases were found, from government notices. Quite soon, everyone started using that website – and this shamed the government into publishing the data itself).

In the same way, you can now find the ‘real API’ online. Parents should make sure that their schools are aware of actual danger levels, so that educators can decide what precautions to take and how much strenuous exercise children should take. Of special concern is the fact that the government claims the Hong Kong API is based on US standards. If that is so, then why is there such a difference between the advice given to US parents and Hong Kong parents? The current US recommendations on children’s health, found on the Clear the Air website, are very different from the Hong Kong advice.

The EPD is ready, willing and able to revise the standards tomorrow – but is being prevented by instruction from the very top. It is time Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen insisted that we adopt standards that actually protect our children’s health. Until he does, find the truth at the Clear the Air and Greenpeace websites.


Stop Lying And Fix Air, Greens Urge Government

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Thursday October 21 2004

Obsolete standards understate severity of pollution and need revision, they say Green groups yesterday urged the government to ‘stop lying’ and face the truth about air pollution.

Greenpeace and Clear the Air said the city’s air quality objectives were obsolete and failed to reflect the real severity of air pollution. Using European Union standards, yesterday’s index at the roadside Causeway Bay monitoring station would have been more than three times the 91 reported, the groups said.

But the Environmental Protection Department said the objectives were comparable with the national standards of the United States, and stressed that the top priority was cutting emissions rather than reviewing the index.

The two groups recently compared the city’s objectives with those of the US, European Union, Japan and World Health Organisation. They found Hong Kong’s objectives were 2.6 times higher than the EU’s in measuring respirable suspended particulates – floating particles that can be inhaled, including diesel emissions – 50 per cent higher for nitrogen dioxide, and 1.3 times higher for sulphur dioxide.

To illustrate the difference, they projected yesterday’s Air Pollution Index about 9am in Causeway Bay using the EU standards. On this basis, they said it should have been 314 instead of 91.

The city’s air quality objectives were set in 1987. They set out benchmarks for the hourly and 24-hour concentrations of pollutants and help determine the index in a range from 0 to 500.

If one of the pollutants at a monitoring station hits the benchmark objective, the index will reach 100, or the very high level.

The Environmental Protection Department says the short-term air quality objectives are met 98.2 to 100 per cent of the time for the 11 ambient measuring stations, and 95.62 to 100 per cent for the three roadside stations.

Clear the Air vice-chairwoman Annelise Connell called on the government to take drastic measures to cut dangerous emissions.

‘The first thing they should do is to stop lying and tell the public the truth. Then the public will help the government to address the problem,’ she said.

Greenpeace campaigner Edward Chan Yue-fai said the government should face the truth and stop blaming regional pollution from the Pearl River Delta. ‘They should set reasonable targets so that it would give incentives to the government to cut emissions,’ he said.

Mr Chan said planning guidelines and environmental impact assessments for projects were based on obsolete objectives.

A department spokeswoman said there were no unified standards. She said various countries adopted different calculation methods and Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Index system had been proposed after referring to US practices and in consultation with green groups.

‘Whether there is a consensus over such standards or not, we should immediately control air pollution,’ she said.

Greens Press Legco For Action

Cheung Chi-fai – Tuesday October 5 2004 – SCMP

Nine environmental groups issued a joint declaration yesterday, urging the new legislature to promote green policies they believe Hong Kong desperately needs. Citing recent issues including harbour reclamation, the Hei Ling Chau super jail and the dispute over a plan by Hopewell Holdings to build a ‘mega tower’ in Wan Chai, they drew up a wish list for the legislators, who will be sworn in tomorrow.

They are pressing for action in five areas – more support for renewable and clean forms of energy to cut down on emissions; a reduction in the amount of Hong Kong’s solid waste and an increase in recycling; a law to preserve the city’s natural heritage; and more support for the development of cleaner public transport.

The alliance comprises the environmental groups Clear the Air, Save the Shorelines, EarthCare, Green Students Council, Friends of the Earth, the Tai Po Environmental Association, Greenpeace, Able Charity and the Conservancy Association.

The alliance is also demanding that the legislature upholds the rule of law in dealing with environmental offenders. ‘Increasing reports show that talented people who are needed for Hong Kong’s competitiveness are moving elsewhere – mainly because of the environment and the threat it poses to their families,’ the alliance said in a statement. ‘As Hong Kong loses its attractiveness as a place to work and live, so too will Hong Kong lose its value, both in property prices as well as breadth of talent.’

The groups want the government to speed up the way it handles environmental matters and further improve its transparency in policy formulation. They also warned against attempts to sell off natural assets to balance the budget. The chairman of Clear the Air, Christian Masset, said they would seek a meeting with legislators to discuss their demands. He said the alliance would monitor and gauge the performance of individual lawmakers and issue a report in six months.