Loh calls for dirty fuel ban during Asian games

Grim skies over Guangzhou

Grim skies over Guangzhou

Banning dirty fuel for two months during the 2010 Asian games may be one of many short term practical solutions which will ensure clear skies over the 16th Asian Games, to be held in 2010 in Guangzhou, according to Civic Exchange chief executive Christine Loh.

Loh suggested short-term projects, covering a two month period around the games, as a “tipping point” to galvanise Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) into wider action on air pollution. One idea proposed by Loh involves limiting of dirty fuel supplies in the region during the Games timeframe. “We have factories, private power generators running low quality fuel. Is it viable, if we start planning now, that for two months only cleaner fuel will be available in the PRD? If we were to achieve this, what would the authorities need to do?”

Loh said such thinking may develop new ways of looking at the air pollution crisis in the PRD. “We should give ourselves a bit of a mission,” she said.

Clean programmes

Cleaning the PRD is a process fraught with policy hindrance. The proposed emissions trading scheme between Hong Kong and Guangdong Province has been abandoned, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is still in a consultative phase over a new scheme.

Loh said a barrier to effective sustainable development and clean air in Hong Kong was the “too small view about opportunities and problems,” held by the city. “The idea that we are the little cousin [of China] holds us back,” she said. “Furthermore, the idea that energy efficiency enhances competitiveness has not yet sunk in.”

Loh urged closer contact between environmental and business communities. “We’re not getting through to the business schools,” she said.

Christine Loh rousing Hong Kong to pollution action

Christine Loh rousing Hong Kong to pollution action

Nevertheless, the links between economics and environment are being forged, albeit slowly. The much vaunted Pollution Prevention, Energy Efficiency (P2E2) scheme shows great promise in using simple economics to clean PRD’s skies – and although it is yet to produce a workable project, the concepts behind monetising energy savings to pay for more efficient equipment are gaining ground. Speaking alongside Loh at the clean air conference, KL Tsang of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, announced funding for the Cleaner Production Programme had been given the green light by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

The scheme concentrates on the four steps of energy efficiency awareness, assessment, project implementation and verification. It will cover 800-1000 Hong Kong owned factories in the PRD, on a 50:50 funding basis. Tsang hoped the scheme would be launched in March or April this year.

However, until such schemes take off, short term ideas such as Loh’s and good corporate citizenship may be the only way the PRD will see blue skies over the Asian Games.

Sports brand Adidas is a good example. Over 300 of its 1,000 global suppliers have factories in China, and the firm has been promoting small-scale energy efficiency investments in these factories to good effect. “We initially met with resistance from our key suppliers,” said Lyn Ip, area manager (environment) for Adidas . “It took us a year to beat the message into the management, but has resulted in quite good returns for the companies.”

For example, Evervan Footwear in Guangdong invested RMB1.3m (US$180,000) in energy saving equipment, which has resulted in a 15% drop in energy use. It also spent RMB70,000 on a recycling boiler steam for cooking, which saves around 400kg of LPG per day; and a RMB30,000 investment in recycling condensed boiler steam has saved 841 tonnes of water usage per month, along with 1.5 tonnes of diesel.

“We’re not suggesting [advanced renewable] technology with 50 year paybacks,” said Ip. “We’re suggesting more practical solutions.”

Beijing 2008 Olympic experience

1031 days to go...

1031 days to go…

Loh, who sits on the Air Quality Science panel for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, said the Beijing 2008 clean air experience would be extremely important in helping develop ideas for Guangzhou 2010. Beijing has been implementing serious short-term practical solutions since 2005, ranging from shutting down smelters to practicing “no car days” to seeding rain clouds using chemically-loaded artillery shells. “But I don’t hear our neighbours [in Guangzhou] talking about what we need to deliver [for 2010] yet,” said Loh.

“For Guangzhou to deliver on a relatively clean Asian games, we all have to pitch in,” she said. “Hong Kong needs to pitch in. Guangzhou needs to reach out. Everybody has to perform.”

Loh’s comments came at a P2E2 forum organised by the US Consulate General to welcome a US clean energy trade mission to Hong Kong. More stories from the forum, and from the China leg of the trade mission, coming soon on Blue Skies China – including an interview with Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Commerce David Bohigian.

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