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Review Of Air Quality Objectives For Hong Kong

Review of air quality objectives and development of a long-term air quality strategy for Hong Kong

Consultation Forum

Opportunities for the General Public to Express their Views and Concerns

31 January 2008 (Thursday)


The Environmental Protection Department has appointed Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd. to commission a study to review Hong Kong’s current Air Quality Objectives (AQO) with an aim to develop a long-term air quality management strategy for Hong Kong.

Before formulating recommendations, the consultants have to examine the latest air quality guidelines and standards advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO), and in the EU and the U3; and also give balanced consideration to factors such as public health, cost effectiveness, society’s expectation, maturity of technologies, the need to work with the Mainland, and the impacts of air quality measures on other government policy areas.

Views from the Hong Kong community will form an important part of the review process. The Hong Kong Productivity Council has been commissioned to organize this forum. Members of the general public who are concerned about the air quality management in Hong Kong are welcome to participate and express their views. A panel of subject experts will give presentations from different perspectives in the forum.


Exhibition Hall, 4/F., HKPC Building, 78, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon

Date & Time

2:00pm – 5:15 pm, 31 January 2008 (Thursday)

See the full program rundown here:

Faulty Data Hampers Drive To Cut Pollution

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP
Jan 10, 2008

Government officials monitoring air pollution in the Pearl River Delta have had to move the goalposts for pollution reduction after estimating that emissions levels in 1997 were twice as high as had been thought.

The Pearl River Delta Air Quality Management Plan review said particulates emission in the delta region in 1997 was 520,000 tonnes, more than double the 245,000 tonnes previously estimated.

A 40 per cent underestimation in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions were also found in the review. As a result, emissions data from 1997 that serve as a baseline for measuring progress towards reducing pollution have been raised, according to the review paper.

As the 1997 data had been underestimated by as much as 112 per cent in the case of particulates, changes to the baselines would have a big influence on determining how far the region was from achieving emission reduction targets.

In 2002, Hong Kong and Guangdong province agreed to pursue pollution target cuts of between 20 and 55 per cent in four major pollutants by 2010 from 1997 levels.

By underestimating the baseline emissions, the extent of emission reductions required by 2010 would be smaller, making it easier to achieve the targets. Overestimates, however, meant more efforts were needed.

Changes to the baseline data, however, would also lead to different maximum allowable emission limits. The review report said the underestimation on the 1997 data was due to factories failing to declare emission levels accurately, mismatches between reported emissions and amount of fuel used, and industrial processes not taken into account.

The paper said an emission calculation methodology in keeping with standards in the United States and European was completed for Hong Kong and Guangdong in 2005. It was then used to review the 1997 and 2003 emission figures – the most up to date data available for Guangdong.

Alexis Lau Kai-hon, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Science and Technology, said updating the baseline data would have an impact on how targets could be met.

“Lifting the baseline not just means more efforts to cut emissions are needed, it also means higher levels of emissions will be tolerated, too,” he said.

Data released by the Environmental Protection Department showed that not only were the 1997 baselines adjusted, the yearly emission data of Hong Kong have also been revised based on the new formula. As a result, Hong Kong was moving faster towards meeting the 2010 targets.

For example, the city had reported nitrogen oxide emissions in 2005 were 15 per cent below the old 1997 baseline but the difference widened to 17.8 per cent against the revised baseline. Figures from 1996 show the city had already met its 2010 target in nitrogen oxide emissions.

Delta Emissions Up 18pc In 2003 Despite Pact

SCMP -Helen Wu and Cheung Chi-fai
Jan 09, 2008

The Pearl River Delta has reported a rise in emissions of up to 18 per cent in 2003, a year after a cross-border agreement with Hong Kong to reduce major pollutants by 2010, according to a document released yesterday.

It was the first time Guangdong had released figures on its progress towards the 2010 targets – ranging from 20 to 55 per cent reductions for pollutants including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

The mid-term review of the Pearl River Delta Air Quality Management Plan showed that regional emissions, excluding Hong Kong, rose by 1 per cent for particulates, 2 per cent for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and 18 per cent for VOCs in 2003. The base year for comparisons was 1997.

In a separate release of Hong Kong’s 2006 emission figures by the Environmental Protection Department, further progress was reported in meeting the 2010 targets, with a reduction ranging from 23 to 48 per cent for the three major pollutants in the 2006 levels compared with 1997. However, sulfur dioxide emissions rose by 12 per cent.The review was conducted by experts from the department and Guangdong’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The 2003 emission figures for the delta region were the latest available based on a mutually agreed methodology.

An environment department source yesterday said the review was essential as Guangdong had been through rapid economic growth, making assumptions adopted in the previous cross-border air study obsolete. “It is possible that the mainland will miss the targets if they do not adopt enhanced measures to cut emissions,” he said.

According to the review, both sides could still meet the 2010 targets – or surpass some of them.
But Man Chi-sum, chief executive of Green Power, said the lack of legislation to prevent the creation of VOCs on the mainland made the prospects of a significant reduction “dim”.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, of Friends of the Earth, also said the pace of development would make meeting the targets difficult.

Pollution Reaches Dangerous Levels: EPD

Lina Lim – SCMP
1:00pm, Jan 08, 2008

Pollution levels in Hong Kong on Tuesday reached dangerous levels – according to the territory’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD).

Pollution at general stations in the city recorded unhealthy levels of nitrogen dioxide and respirable suspended particulates between the 61 (high) to 105 (very high) point range.

Meanwhile, roadside stations in Causeway Bay, Central and Mongkok recorded more alarming levels at 91, 111 and 100, respectively.

People with heart or respiratory ailments were advised to avoid going outdoors for prolonged periods of time.

Respirable suspended particles are suspended particulates smaller than 10 micrometres which have the ability to penetrate deeply into the lungs.

Depending on their source and existing meteorological conditions, the particles can be made up of a number of different constituents such as silicon, aluminium, calcium, manganese and iron from construction sites and carbon, lead, bromine and hydrocarbons from vehicular emissions.

Nitrogen dioxide, however, enters the air as a result of combustion processes which involve high temperatures, such as those produced by power plants and vehicular engines.

It is a corrosive light brown gas which can cause urban haze or photo-chemical smog.

Hong Kong has a serous problem with air pollution and the growing government is under pressure to deal with the problem – particularly because of the effect it is having on people’s health.

It has been estimated that over 2,000 people annually die in Hong Kong because of air pollution; while others suffer serious health effects.

A government study several years ago argued that 80 per cent of the city’s pollution came from factories and power plants in southern China.

But a report by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Civic Exchange, a think-tank, argued that in 2006 Hong Kong’s air pollution was largely the result of local factors. This included the city’s road traffic, coal-fired power stations and ships.

Air Quality Monitoring Network

A report on the results from the Air Quality Monitoring Network (AQMN) (2006)

Air Science Group
Environmental Protection Department
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

This report summarises the 2006 air quality monitoring data collected by the Environmental Protection Department’s monitoring network.

As a result of the enhanced vehicle emission control programme implemented by the Government since 2000, concentrations of respirable suspended particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide at roadside have been dropping gradually over the past few years.

Over the past years, concentrations of ozone have been on a slow rising trend, reflecting a deterioration in regional air quality. On this front, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Guangdong Provisional Government are implementing a Regional Air Quality Management Plan to improve air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region.

As in previous years, concentrations of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead remained at levels well below their respective Air Quality Objectives limits in 2006.

See the full report on the results from the Air Quality Monitoring Network

Air Pollution Index Sets Record High

Bad-air days leave critics choking mad

Activists attack government’s ‘go-slow’ policy as pollution index sets record for year

Mary Ann Benitez
Updated on Dec 08, 2007

Critics rounded on the government over bad-air days as the air-pollution index hit a year’s record high of 151 yesterday, with the situation expected to continue this weekend.

Air-quality activists blamed the “go-slow” policy of the government on air pollution, and others said that based on international standards, air pollution was actually worse than local readings indicated.

Readings touched or exceeded 100 at some time during the day at nine out of 11 general stations, and all three roadside stations in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok exceeded 100.

Today the highest roadside API [Air Pollutant Index] was 151, which is also the highest this year up to today, followed by 147 on October 7,” a spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday.

“We expect the current episode will last for a couple of days until we have fresh wind with greater wind speed to help disperse the pollutant over the territories.”

The department’s principal environmental protection officer, Dave Ho Tak-yin, told RTHK the very high API readings were caused by “trappings of air pollutants under light winds coupled with the influence of regional air pollution”.

But Anthony Hedley, chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Community Medicine, said the API readings were misleading because they were based on 20-year-old air-quality objectives.

What we need to do is to resolve that by adopting the World Health Organisation air-quality guidelines. If we use those as standards, then we will have a realistic estimate of the risk,” he said.

Hong Kong’s air-quality objective for particulates, for example, is 180, but the WHO guideline is 50.

So the actual readings “would be very much higher”, Professor Hedley said.

The EPD spokeswoman said Hong Kong’s API systems were “similar to the air-pollution [indices] and reporting systems currently used by most places in Asia such as Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Indonesia”.

Christian Masset, chairman of Clear the Air, said the episodes of severely polluted air were “the result of the government’s go-slow approach”, which he called ” “bad for the people and for the image of Hong Kong”.

He said the occasional improvement of air quality was due to meteorological conditions and had nothing to do with government.

Alvin Chan Yee-shing, council member of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said a 150 reading was not only bad for the sick, it was bad for every citizen’s health.

Elderly patients who would benefit from a walk in the park or doing tai chi outdoors were being put at a disadvantage, he said.

Alfred Tam Yat-cheung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Asthma Society, said: “There is every reason to warn people to be careful, to limit outdoor activity. Don’t stay on the roadside, because that is the most polluted place in the whole territory, and go to the doctor when you have respiratory complaints.

The Department of Health said parainfluenza was “the dominant flu-like symptoms that were spotted in patients recently”.

Hong Kong Issues Warning On Pollution

Reuters – Published: December 7, 2007

HONG KONG: People with heart or lung problems were warned Friday to avoid outdoor activities in Hong Kong as it experienced one of its most polluted days of the year, with the hills across the harbor almost invisible.

Pollution monitoring stations registered “very high” readings in several spots and the Environmental Protection Department said the poor air was expected to continue.

Hong Kong’s air has become increasingly clogged with pollutants from cars, ships, power plants and a booming manufacturing sector across the border in China’s Guangdong province.

Air Pollution Index readings surpassed 101, entering a zone that the Environmental Protection Department considers “very high,” at several sites.

They included the Central business district, which hit 150 by mid-afternoon.

Environmental Protection Department Emission Figures

 This letter was sent to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) by Jim Middleton, a member of Clear The Air, in relation to the misleading figures quoted on the EPD website regarding per capita CO2 emissions. The letter was sent on the 7th of December.

Dear [EPD],

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) chooses to disguise emission figures by using a per capita emission for CO2 and then comparing the rest of the world to show Hong Kong in favorable light.

That is ridiculous.

The Hong Kong population has a cocoon of only 154.4 m2 of space each in which to breathe the C02 and pollutants emitted. The above site shows Greenhouse weighted emissions at 6.5 tonnes per capita of Hong Kong population in 2006.

That is 42 kgs emissions per m2 per Hong Kong person per year.

You state Hong Kong emissions are lower than those developed countries shown below.

The EPD report below lists Australia at 27 tonnes emissions per capita.

In Australia each person has 374,800m2 of space compared to Hong Kong’s 154.4 m2 each.

That is 0.072 kgs emissions per m2 per Australian person per year.

I suggest the Government gets real on this misleading method of presenting Hong Kong’s greenhouse emissions.


James Middleton

Clear The Air 10th Anniversary Party

The charity volunteer organization, Clear the Air, now boosting a membership of 500, drew a large turn out for the occasion, including new members and representatives of other environmental organizations, such as Clean Air Action Group, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Green-Sense and the Environment Protection Department.

The purpose of the gathering went beyond the anniversary celebration;  it was also an opportunity to present the evolution of the group from its inception until the present,  and define directions for the years ahead.  In addition, the aim was to attract new people who would be interested in getting involved in committees that require more hands, such as communication, campaigning, energy, town-planning and diesel engines.

Mr Tony Lee of the EPD presented the consultation paper on the proposal to ban idling engines and asked for support to have this bill passed.

Ms Catherine Touzard talked about her book, “Going Green in Hong Kong,” a comprehensive guide to everyday life and how we can all actively participate in affecting the environment.

The Lucky Draw was a stunning light-weight, foldable, urban bicycle that was graciously sponsored by GUM Ltd and happily won by Cathy Carroll.

The Chair, Christian Masset, in a short talk, highlighted the evolution of the group, the constant need to tackle pollution at the source while promoting renewable energies and emission-less vehicles.

In regard to the latter, a short video was shown on the air car, a zero-emission vehicle designed by MDI and soon to be produced in India.

LegCo Presentation – Tamar Canyon Effect

LegCo Presentation:

Feb 2006 – Tamar canyon effect – Dr. Jimmy Fung

Air pollution numbers wrong and canyon effect not considered


November 30, 2005

TO: Panel on Planning, Lands and Works – Special Meeting 17 Dec, 2005 – Tamar
Fax: 2869-6794

Honorable Chair and Members,

We ask that you not accept anything from the Government regarding the Tamar site until the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for CRIII is updated with recent, actual air pollution data using a proper model that includes the “canyon effect” of our buildings in trapping air pollution.

We note the following regarding the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment shown to you in 2001.

  1. The predictions were wrong – the Environmental Impact Assessment is no longer valid
  2. The model used in the Environmental Impact Assessment assumes Central is a flat surface
  3. There is no urgency. There is time to do a new report properly with current data and the correct model (estimated 3 months and $300,000)

Comparison of predicted and actual 24-hour Average Respiratory Suspended Paticles (RSP)

Predicted and Actual Levels of RSP in Central 2003

* Environmental Impact Assessment (July 2001) supported by Urbis Limited, Babtie BMT Harris & Sutherland Regards

** Data from Environmental Protection Department Central roadside air pollution monitoring station 2003

Annelise Connell
Vice Chairman , Clear the Air

Central Reclamation Phase III

South China Morning Post – Sunday November 20 2005 – Tamar pollution prediction ‘far too low’