HK’s air could be as fresh as Tokyo’s by 2035: govt

Hong Kong’s air could be as fresh as that in Tokyo or Paris by 2035, the government announced on Tuesday.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing unveiled the administration’s new Clean Air Plan – after the last blueprint expired in 2020 – with a target for Hong Kong to “become a liveable city with air quality on par with major international cities” by 2035.

Wong said the SAR’s air quality improved over the past decade, but challenges remain for the city to reduce ozone levels, roadside nitrogen oxides and vessel emissions.

He said Hong Kong’s air quality is currently on a par with that of Taiwan and Singapore, but the territory will strive to catch up with exemplary cities including the Japanese and French capitals, and ultimately meet the highest air quality standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The new plan does not set out specific targets over air pollution levels or an exact time frame for Hong Kong to meet the best WHO air quality standards.

But the secretary said the government will adopt a range of measures to further reduce air pollution, from promoting the use of electric private cars and franchised buses and using cleaner energy, to phasing out old diesel commercial vehicles and collaborating with Guangdong authorities in reducing emissions of air pollutants.

Wong said the government will review the effectiveness of its measures every five years.

When asked how the government will further boost the use of cleaner energy and reduce carbon emissions from power plants, Wong said the administration will announce more details in its next Climate Action Plan.

“The forthcoming climate action plan will tell you more about our plan to decarbonise Hong Kong, and power generation is a key component to be discussed. We will try to firstly, maximise the use of local renewable energy that is supported by many people in town.”

Owin Fung, Deputy Director of Environmental Protection, admitted that the city’s ozone levels continued to rise over the past decade, adding that the government will try harder to tackle the problem.

“We will apply more the so-called micro-censors in our air monitoring stations and also in some places in different districts in order to generate more data, and give us more room and information to do more in-depth analysis. It will also help us diagnose how ozone is being formed in Hong Kong.”

According to government data collected from the city’s roadside monitoring stations, the average concentrations of major air pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, fine suspended particulates (PM 2.5), respirable suspended particulates (PM 10), and sulphur dioxide all fell by between 40 and 50 percent from 2010 to 2020.

But a report by Clean Air Network found that Hong Kong’s ozone levels increased by 129 percent from 2013 to 2020, while the levels of air pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, PM 2.5, PM 10 in 2020 exceeded WHO’s air quality targets by 60 to 90 percent.