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March 30th, 2009:

Delta Plan ‘To Exclude Cut In CO2 Emissions’ Main Greenhouse Gas Left Out For A Decade

Chloe Lai in Guangzhou, SCMP – Mar 30, 2009

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is likely to be excluded from the Pearl River Delta air quality management plan for a further decade.

The plan is due for renewal by the Guangdong and Hong Kong governments next year and the Environmental Protection Department is tight-lipped on whether CO2 will be included. But a source close to the Guangdong government said CO2 was likely to be excluded from the plan.

“The only possible way to have the greenhouse gas included in the monitoring is Hong Kong doing it internally, setting a model for Guangdong,” the source said.

Both sides are now discussing the next targets for 2020 and which emissions should be included.

Hong Kong and Guangdong agreed in 2002 to reduce emission of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, respirable suspended particulates and volatile organic compounds by 40 per cent, 20 per cent, 55 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, by 2010.

The city is confident it will meet those targets, according to a mid-term review the Environmental Protection Department released early last year. But the department says Guangdong would have to implement additional control measures to meet them.

Hong Kong released 45 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006, according to government figures. This equals 6 tonnes per person, or 0.1 per cent of the world’s total emission.

Hong Kong’s principal source of CO2 emissions is power generation, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the total. Green groups in Hong Kong have for years been urging the government to set an emission target on CO2.

The Environmental Protection Department has commissioned a consultancy study on climate change in Hong Kong which is due to be completed by the end of the year.

It will review and update the inventories of greenhouse gases in Hong Kong, characterise the impact of climate change on the city, and recommend additional policies and measures to reduce such emissions.

While the city is not obliged under the Kyoto Protocol to set any reduction targets for emissions, the government pledged along with other Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation economies in 2007 to reduce Hong Kong’s energy intensity by a quarter by 2030, with 2005 as the base year.

The UN is hosting a two-week meeting with 175 countries participating, including China, to craft a new agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At a meeting between the Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang early this month, both sides agreed to jointly map out further arrangements on how to improve regional air quality.

It is understood authorities in Guangdong have started to decide on the province’s emission targets for the 12th five-year plan.

Chen Guangrong, deputy head of the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau, also hinted that the province would continue to exclude CO2 from its reduction targets.

“China is a developing country; there is no compulsory obligation for us to cut CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. But we are doing it voluntarily,” Mr Chen said.

Environmentalists hope the two governments will change their minds.

“There are many of things both sides need to do to improve regional air quality,” Conservancy Association spokesman Hung Wing-tat said. “They should build more monitoring stations, and including CO2 in the monitoring will give us a better picture of greenhouse gas emission in the area.”

Wang Canfa, an environmental expert at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said it was important for both governments to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

But it would be more appropriate to do so on a voluntary basis. “There is no law in China on cutting CO2, so it will be difficult for them to set a target and make it compulsory.”