Hong Kong’s HK$8m public consultation into its Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) is drawing to a close – next week is the last chance for ordinary Hong Kongers to have their say about the proposal to bring Hong Kong’s air quality targets in-line with tough World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines.
The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) consultation, open until November 30, asks for views on the priority of public health when considering air quality targets, the appropriate areas to reduce emissions, and whether the public would be willing to pay more for fuel, electricity and services to adopt tougher guidelines.
To assist the public in forming their views, the EPD has drafted a straightforward guide to the concepts and issues behind WHO air quality guidelines and Hong Kong’s air pollution situation.
“Updating the AQOs and developing an air quality management strategy are inevitably technical in nature and cut across many different sectors of the community,” says an EPD spokesman.
“To help the general public give their views, we have presented the relevant technical information in simple and plain language and we have also been meeting with different sectors of the community to explain the relevant issues and promote discussion on them. These efforts, we believe, will help the community to understand the issues and form their views,” she says.
One aspect of the consultation exercise is education. “This public consultation exercise is a good opportunity for us to review with the community the efforts we have made in improving air quality and what more we need to do to help further improve air quality. Consequently, the public will also be better educated about our actions and achievements,” says the spokesman.
According to the document accompanying the consultation questionnaire, Hong Kong’s emissions have fallen substantially in recent years, but due to cross-border pollution the city has not enjoyed a concurrent improvement in air quality.
“Regarding public perception, we believe that the photochemical smog problem in the Pearl River Delta Region has largely shaped the views of the public on air quality,” says the spokesman. “To tackle the smog problem, we have been working together with the Guangdong Provincial Government to reduce the emissions in the Pearl River Delta. At the moment, both Governments are working to reduce by 2010 the emissions of four key air pollutants (namely SO2, NOx, respirable suspended particulates, volatile organic compounds) by 20 to 55% and have started discussion on the post-2010 emission reduction arrangement,” she says.
According to the spokesman, the consultation has, at 15 November, received 1,335 replies from the public, with more responses expected before the end of the month.
“These responses are just part of the feedback of the consultation,” she says. “We are also meeting with various bodies such as district councils, political parties, green groups, professional institutions, power companies, transport trades, industrial and business groups to gather views from a broader spectrum of the community.”
The survey and explanatory document can be found through the EPD’s website at http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/air/air_quality_objectives/air_quality_objectives.html