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Air pollution ordinance exposes Yau’s wafer-thin legislative smokescreen

South China Morning Post – Laisee – 1 Feb 2012

Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah’s trickiness over his handling of the introduction of new air quality objectives (AQOs) is beginning to gain some traction among lawmakers.

Yau said earlier this month that the new AQOs could not take effect until 2014, as it took time to go through the legislative process.

However, the Air Pollution Control Ordinance says that the AQOs “may be amended from time to time by the secretary, after consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment”.

In other words, they just need to be gazetted. Not much more than the stroke of a pen.

This has caught the attention of lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee who, in yesterday’s South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583,announcementsnews) , wrote that Yau’s approach was “a subterfuge”.

The ordinance adds: “The authority shall aim to achieve the relevant air quality objectives as soon as is reasonably practicable and thereafter to maintain the quality so achieved.”

This has clearly not been achieved. The Legislative Council paper on the Accountability System for Principal Officials states that officials “would be accountable to the chief executive for the success or failure of matters falling within the portfolios assigned to them by the chief executive. They would accept total responsibility and they may have to step downfor serious failures relating to their portfolios.”

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