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December, 2012:

350b yuan allotted for air cleanup

HK Standard

A total of 350 billion yuan (HK$435.7 billion) will be spent by 2015 to curb air pollution in major cities, the environmental watchdog said.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A total of 350 billion yuan (HK$435.7 billion) will be spent by 2015 to curb air pollution in major cities, the environmental watchdog said.

Local governments will fund most of the programs aimed at cutting the level of harmful particles in the air in 117 cities by at least 5 percent between 2011 and 2015, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.

Doctors warn that the tiny floating PM 2.5 particles, named for their less than 2.5-micrometer diameter, can settle in the lungs and cause respiratory problems and other illnesses.

China began publishing data on the amount of such pollution earlier this year in an effort to address concerns from residents that pollution readings were grossly understated.

Officials have acknowledged that the thick cocktail of smokestack emissions, vehicle exhaust, dust and aerosols that often fills the air in many cities is a growing concern to prosperous urban residents.

Many residents in Beijing refer to an air pollution index published by the US embassy, a move that has drawn the ire of mainland officials who have called it unscientific.

Those measurements, based on US standards, appear much grimmer than those of the city government’s and often list pollution levels as hazardous at prolonged exposure.

China has cited its reliance on heavy industry as the reason it failed to meet some of its 2011 air and water pollution reduction targets.


Return to academia a break from politics for HKU’s Gabriel Leung

Submitted by admin on Dec 10th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Patsy Moy

Gabriel Leung won’t discuss his stormy years as undersecretary for health, but say he’s glad to be back at the University of Hong Kong

Leaping from academia to the government four years ago, Professor Gabriel Leung quickly found himself learning political survival skills as he faced tough job assignments and a series of scandals.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that when Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s administration ended in June, Leung decided to leave the government and resume his teaching duties at the University of Hong Kong.

Now, at the relatively young age of 39, he has taken the helm of the university’s department of community medicine, to head a staff of more than 200 academic and administrative employees.

In an interview at his office at Cyberport, Leung refused to comment on his four years in the government. Rather, he kept emphasising how much he enjoyed being back in the academic world, and how excited he was about the university’s medical-research projects.

“Besides a major study to measure the mental and physical health – as well as the social well-being – of Hong Kong families, we are also undertaking many medical research projects on different public-health issues, such as hand, foot and mouth disease, influenza and other infectious illnesses.

“Our anti-smoking campaign, which has been run by the school of public health for many years, must continue. All these projects will last for years, and we will keep the momentum going,” Leung said.

“I have been busy flying here and there these days, to attend academic conferences and meet other medical experts. We need to build a close network with our overseas counterparts in order to improve our exchange of information, for better disease control and medical advancement.”

Throughout his career, Leung has been a high-flier with an enviable career path. After graduating in 1997, he joined the University of Hong Kong in 1999. Seven years later, he became one of the youngest people to obtain a tenured professorship in the history of the university.

His expertise in public-health science made him a natural pick for the government, to help the city prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases and cope with the health burdens of an ageing population. He was invited to become undersecretary for food and health in May 2008.

During his time as the right-hand man to then secretary for food and health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, Leung faced some thorny political tasks, from lobbying for long-awaited health-care-financing reforms, to handling the widespread problem of illegal columbariums.

Leung played a key role in handling the aftermath of the Manila hostage killings in August 2010, in which seven Hong Kong holidaymakers and their guide were killed in the Philippine capital and others injured. With his boss on holiday, Leung represented the department and visited the survivors in hospital.

Leung attended Legislative Council meetings, where he sometimes came under fierce attack from lawmakers over government policies.

His roughest patch in government may have come after he became director of the Chief Executive’s Office last year. Leung reportedly came under enormous pressure and faced scathing attacks from the central government’s liaison office for failing to manage the conflict-of-interest saga over Leung Chun-ying’s involvement a decade earlier in a design competition for the West Kowloon arts hub.

At the time, Leung Chun-ying was running neck-and-neck with Henry Tang Ying-yen in the race to be chief executive.

In the last few months of Donald Tsang’s administration, the medical professor also had to handle a string of serious allegations of misconduct against Tsang. He was accused of accepting gifts from tycoons, including rides on private yachts and jets, and a bargain deal to rent a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen.

At least one observer thinks Leung should have remained in the government. Andy Ho On-tat, a former information co-ordinator with the Chief Executive’s Office, strongly believes Leung would have made a good health minister, given his strong leadership and competence.

“Personally, I believe Gabriel is a suitable candidate to be secretary for health and welfare,” Ho said. “He has a high EQ [emotional quotient], a strong network and competence. He is very effective as well, and goes about his duties very efficiently.

“Gabriel is also very knowledgable in areas outside the medical field, and is able to blend into new environments easily. Despite the weak government in the final few months [of Tsang’s term], Gabriel was able to handle his work very competently.

“As friends, we always laughed with him about his becoming the vice chancellor, or at least dean of the medical school, after his return to the university.”

Gabriel Matthew Leung

Age 39

Education Received a medical degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Took a master’s degree at Harvard University. Won the Sir Patrick Manson Gold Medal for his MD thesis at HKU.

Then and now First joined HKU in 1999. Appointed undersecretary for food and health in 2008. Became director of Chief Executive’s Office in 2011. Currently head of the department of community medicine at HKU’s school of public health.


Gabriel Leung

University of Hong Kong

Public Health

HKSAR Government

Source URL (retrieved on Dec 10th 2012, 6:08am):

Christine Loh blames poor air quality on past governments’ passivity

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Christine Loh blames poor air quality on past governments’ passivity

Christine Loh blames poor air quality on past governments’ passivity

Submitted by admin on Dec 8th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Ada Lee

Government is confident of meeting new targets despite past failings, environment official says

Previous governments have been too passive in updating the city’s air quality standards, Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai told lawmakers yesterday.

Speaking to the Legislative Council’s public accounts committee, she acknowledged that the city had yet to attain its 25-year-old air-quality objectives. Even so, she said the Environment Bureau was confident it could achieve the new, more stringent targets that will be in effect by 2014.

The committee hearing was a response to last month’s scathing report from the Audit Commission, which criticised the government’s pollution-cutting measures as ineffective, inadequate or stalled by red tape. It also doubted that the proposed new standards were tough enough.

Lawmakers asked officials why it had taken the government so long to amend the air quality objectives. They questioned the government’s ability to reach the new targets, given its poor record.

Loh replied: “It would be difficult for us to answer [why it takes 25 years to amend the objectives]. The two previous terms of government had a different set of priorities … In the past, Hong Kong was quite passive in tightening air quality standards.”

Deputy Director of Environmental Protection Andrew Lai Chi-wah said the government reviewed its air quality standards in 1997 and considered extending the objectives to cover fine particles. But the idea was shelved because of legal challenges in the United States that delayed Washington’s implementation of new standards for airborne particles.

Loh said it was necessary for Hong Kong to see how such cases worked out overseas before pushing ahead with its own amendments.

Anissa Wong Sean-yee, permanent secretary for the environment, said the bureau was confident it could hit the new targets if its suggested measures – such as retiring old and heavily polluting vehicles, and designating low-emission zones – were implemented.

People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man asked if the new air quality targets took account of emissions that will be generated by new infrastructure projects. A bureau official replied that the new projects’ environmental impact assessments were tied to the new air standards.

Loh said people should think about the balance between the environment and development.

“If the environmental impact assessment for the third runway did not go through, and if the Airport Authority could not come up with effective measures to make it go through, the whole city might have to reduce emissions drastically in other areas to make the third runway happen,” she said.


Air Pollution


HKSAR Government

Christine Loh

Pollution Control

Source URL (retrieved on Dec 8th 2012, 7:12am):

NASA – Earth at Night

Proposal for a new EU Environment Action Programme to 2020

The Commission proposal

Download PDF : com2011_571

The proposed programme builds on the significant achievements of 40 years of EU environment policy, and draws on a number of recent strategic initiatives in the field of environment, including the Resource Efficiency Roadmap, the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and the Low Carbon Economy Roadmap. It should secure the commitment of EU institutions, Member States, regional and local administrations and other stakeholders to a common agenda for environment policy action up to 2020.

General environment action programmes have guided the development of EU environment policy since the early seventies. The Sixth EU Environment Action Programme covered the period 2002-2012.

While many EU Member States are struggling to cope with the economic crisis, the attendant need for structural reforms offers new opportunities for the EU to move rapidly onto a more sustainable path. The new environment action programme points the way towards making the most of these opportunities.

Tighter standards for PM proposed in the US

Strengthening the annual fine particle pollution standard will improve health protection and provide benefits worth billions of dollars.

On 15 June the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to update its national air quality standard for fine particle pollution (PM2.5). The proposal came in response to legal action filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Pollution by fine particles causes serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. It also contributes to the haze that envelops many US cities and national parks.

The proposal envisages a strengthening of the annual mean standard for harmful PM2.5 to a level within a range of 13 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) to 12 µg/m3, to be compared to the current annual standard of 15 µg/m3. For comparison, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended an air quality guideline value of 10 µg/m3 as an annual mean.

It is also proposed by the EPA to set a separate fine particle standard to improve visibility, primarily in urban areas. This standard could be set at either 28 or 30 deciviews.

The EPA points out that the proposal has no impact on the existing daily standard for PM2.5 at 35 µg/m3 or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10) at 150 µg/m3, both of which would remain unchanged.

As a result of emission control action already taken or in the pipeline through the Clean Air Act, the EPA estimates that 99 per cent of all counties in the US will meet the proposed new standards without any additional action. EPA plans to make attainment/non-attainment designations by December 2014, with those designations likely becoming effective in early 2015.

States would then have five years, until 2020, to meet the proposed health standards, and states may request a possible extension to 2025, depending on the severity of an area’s PM pollution problems and the availability of pollution controls.

Under US law, EPA cannot consider costs in setting or revising national ambient air quality standards. However, to inform the public, the EPA is required to analyse the benefits and costs of implementing new standards. Therefore it will issue a regulatory impact analysis that estimates the potential benefits and costs of meeting a revised annual health standard in the year 2020.

EPA estimates that the proposed standards are expected to yield significant health benefits, valued at US$2.3 billion to 5.9 billion annually for a proposed standard of 12 μg/m3 and at US$88 million to 220 million annually for a proposed standard of 13 μg/m3. The estimated costs of implementing the proposal are US$69 million (for 12 μg/m3) and $2.9 million (for 13 μg/m3). This would result in a return of US$30 to US$86 for every dollar invested in pollution control.

“This proposal is long overdue,” said Paul Cort, the Earthjustice attorney who represented the Lung Association and NPCA in legal proceedings. “The fact that the EPA has been put back on track by the courts is an important first step in this process, but now the agency needs to set strong final standards to protect people from this deadly pollution. The law requires it, and the millions of Americans who live in areas made filthy by particle pollution desperately need it.”

Earthjustice, the American Lung Association and Clean Air Task Force urge an annual standard of 11 µg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µg/m3. The groups collaborated to last year produce a report entitled “Sick of soot: How the EPA can save lives by cleaning up fine particle pollution”. According to this study, an annual standard of 11 µg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µg/m3 could every year spare the American public from 35,700 premature deaths; 2,350 heart attacks; 23,290 visits to the hospital and emergency room; 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis; 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma; and 2.7 million days of missed work or school due to air-pollution-related ailments.

The EPA will accept public comment for 63 days after the proposed standards are published in the Federal Register, and will then issue a final ruling by 14 December 2012

Christer Ågren

Information on the EPA proposal:
Comments from the American Lung Association:

The costs of climate change

Download PDF : AN4-2012

Hong Kong’s waste-charges plan get broad support, government poll shows

Submitted by admin on Dec 7th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Environmental Protection Department poll shows 60 per cent of respondents back scheme as a way to tackle rubbish-disposal problems

People will have to pay to have their rubbish dumped after the Hong Kong government finally took the next step in dealing with its mounting waste problem after years of delays.

Officials had pledged to introduce quantity-based solid-waste charges scheme, in which people pay according to how much rubbish they dump, by 2007.

The Environmental Protection Department said that a public consultation exercise held between January and April showed that about 60 per cent of respondents supported waste charges and believed that the quantity approach was the way forward.

While the EPD neither specified its preferred model of charging for waste nor spelled out details of the plan, in a paper submitted to the legislature yesterday it made extensive reference to Taipei’s experience in implementing the measure, in which households buy designated rubbish bags of varying sizes.

In the Taipei model, households are levied the equivalent of HK$0.50 for each kilogramme they discard. This is then used to dispose of the waste they generate. If Hong Kong adopted a similar scheme, a three-member household would pay about HK$40 a month, based on the average of 0.87kg of rubbish each person disposes of a day.

But a department official who declined to be named said that the waste charge, even if implemented, would not fully recover the cost of waste treatment. He said the charge would serve only as an incentive for people to cut their waste. He said more than 9,000 tonnes of solid waste a day was being dumped in landfills and that if there was no expansion, the landfills would reach their capacity by 2018.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said yesterday that he had invited the Council for Sustainable Development to help the public address key questions about the charging scheme, which he hoped would be implemented by 2016.

He said the questions would test the public’s level of tolerance in accepting the waste charges and other changes that would come with the measure, such as removing up to 20,000 rubbish bins from the streets so as to ensure proper enforcement of the charges.

The department’s officials said although Taipei’s waste charge had helped cut domestic waste disposal by about 60 per cent, up to 27 tonnes of waste were still being illegally dumped across the city each day.

Alkin Kwong Ching-wai, president of the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies, said that while the association supported the quantity approach, they were worried that the charge would increase their workload. “We are bound to spend more in cleaning up rubbish not properly thrown away, and we might be forced to increase management fee to pay for that additional expense,” he said.

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth said the problems foreseen with introducing the charge could be overcome.

Its spokeswoman, Celia Fung, said that stringent enforcement could deter people from disposing of their waste illegally and that conventional rubbish bins on the streets could be replaced with recycling bins.


Environmental Protection Department


government poll

Source URL (retrieved on Dec 7th 2012, 6:18am):

BA and Solena to produce sustainable jet fuel


Airline British Airways (BA) and zero-emission bioenergy company, Solena, have progressed in their goal to produce sustainable jet fuel as part of their GreenSky London partnership, with BA reportedly making the ‘largest advanced biofuel commitment ever made by an airline’.

The British airline yesterday (6 December), announced that it has invested $500 million (£311m) in the partnership’s low-carbon jet fuel production facility and will purchase jet fuel produced by the GreenSky plant over the next 10 years. The fuel will be used in all BA flights operating out of London City Airport.

President and CEO of Solena, Robert Do, said: “Our GreenSky London project will provide clean, sustainable fuels at market competitive prices that will help address British Airways’ sustainability goals.

“The British Airways off-take agreement represents the largest advanced biofuel commitment ever made by an airline and clearly demonstrates the airline’s leadership and vision in achieving its carbon emission reduction targets.”

Though construction on the GreenSky plant has not yet begun, BA has confirmed that GreenSky London has signed an exclusive option on a site for the facility and consent work for the site has begun.

Once built, the facility is expected to annually convert approximately 500,000 tonnes of residual waste into 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel, 50,000 tonnes of biodiesel, as well as bionaphtha (a blending component in petrol), and renewable power.

Included at the site will be a biomass power station capable of producing 40 megawatts of electricity per annum. Electricity that isn’t used at the plant will then be fed into the national grid. The facility is hoped to be operational by 2015.

Chief Executive of BA, Keith Williams, said: “We are delighted that the GreenSky London project is getting ever closer to fruition. With world-class technology partners now in place, we are well on our way to making sustainable aviation fuel a reality for British Airways by 2015.”

As a result of this development, 150 permanent jobs are expected to be created, in addition to 1000 construction jobs.

The production of the sustainable jet fuel will fall to Solena Fuels Corporation, which will be responsible for converting waste matter into synthesis gas through a process of high temperature gasification and Oxford Catalyst Groups/Velocys, which will then convert the cleaned gas into liquid hydrocarbons.

According to Solena, the biofuels produced by this process are expected to reduce carbon emissions by 90 per cent over regular Jet A-1 fuel. Research conducted by Resource last year, however, indicated environmental groups were loath to praise the plans because of uncertainty over the provenance of the waste. Friends of the Earth campaigner Becky Slater said: “British Airways’ plans to produce aviation jet fuel from waste won’t necessarily be good for the environment, [but has] the potential to offer options for dealing with waste that cannot be avoided or recycled.”

Plastic bulb development promises better quality light

Science & Environm

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

Wake forest university researchers

Continue reading the main story

Related Stories

US researchers say they have developed a new type of lighting that could replace fluorescent bulbs.

The new source is made from layers of plastic and is said to be more efficient while producing a better quality of flicker-free light.

The scientists behind it say they believe the first units will be produced in 2013.

Details of the new development have been published in the journal Organic Electronics.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

What we’ve found is a way of creating light rather than heat”

End Quote Prof David Carroll Wake Forest University

Brighter white

The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent (Fipel) technology. It is made from three layers of light-emitting polymers, each containing a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them.

The inventor of the device is Dr David Carroll, professor of physics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He says the new plastic lighting source can be made into any shape, and it produces a better quality of light than compact fluorescent bulbs which have become very popular in recent years.

The new light source is said to be twice as efficient as fluorescent bulbs

“They have a bluish, harsh tint to them, ” he told BBC News, “it is not really accommodating to the human eye; people complain of headaches and the reason is the spectral content of that light doesn’t match the Sun – our device can match the solar spectrum perfectly.

“I’m saying we are brighter than one of these curlicue bulbs and I can give you any tint to that white light that you want.”

Continue reading the main story

Lighting up the world

  • Lighting accounts for around 19% of global electricity use
  • A worldwide switch to low-energy bulbs could save the output of around 600 power plants

There have been several attempts to develop new light-bulbs in recent years – Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have come a long way since they were best known for being indicator lights in electronic devices. Over the past decade, they have become much more widely used as a light source as they are both bright and efficient. They are now often used on large buildings.

Light not heat

Another step forward has been organic LEDs (OLEDs) which also promise greater efficiency and better light than older, incandescent bulbs. Their big advantage over LEDs is that they can be transformed into many different shapes including the screens for high-definition televisions.

But Prof Carroll believes OLED lights haven’t lived up to the hype.

“They don’t last very long and they’re not very bright,” he said. “There’s a limit to how much brightness you can get out of them. If you run too much current through them they melt.”

The Fipel bulb, he says, overcomes all these problems.

“What we’ve found is a way of creating light rather than heat. Our devices contain no mercury, they contain no caustic chemicals and they don’t break as they are not made of glass.”

Prof Carroll says his new bulb is cheap to make and he has a “corporate partner” interested in manufacturing the device. He believes the first production runs will take place in 2013.

He also has great faith in the ability of the new bulbs to last. He says he has one in his lab that has been working for about a decade.