Response to Environmental Protection Department's 2021 Air Quality Review
Regarding the 2021 air quality review by the Environmental Protection Department, the comments of Clean Air Network are as follows:
1. The EPD stated that over the past 10 years, there was remarkable improvement in the air quality in Hong Kong; however, it has in fact slowed down since 2018, indicating the impact of previous efforts in reducing pollution has come to a standstill. If the government does not take more aggressive actions, the level of pollution could hardly decrease further, not to say reaching WHO standards.
2. In our previously published annual air quality review, Clean Air Network pointed out the severity of roadside air pollution and the necessity of reducing car emissions, especially that of commercial vehicles. The phasing out of pre-Euro to Euro III diesel vehicles brought about significant reduction in pollution, yet in the next stage, in which Euro IV vehicles would be phased out, the reduction is expected to be smaller. It is essential to implement zero emission new energy vehicles in order to significantly clean up the air. Unfortunately, the EPD insists on laying out a timeline for that only in 2025, hindering air quality improvement.
3. “Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong 2035” set a goal of improving Hong Kong’s air quality to a level on par with major international cities before 2035; but the EPD does not seem to have clear standards for drawing comparison between Hong Kong and other cities. It is worrying that the goal would be reduced to lip service without concrete directions for action.
4. As the review of Hong Kong Air Quality Objectives would be completed next year, we believe it should be tightened to meet WHO standards to protect public health and meet decarbonization goals. The review should also involve green groups and civil society to ensure public engagement.
5. Regarding ozone levels, the EPD has not given ways to reduce NOx, one of the main precursors of ozone. The “Photochemical Ozone Pollution in Greater Bay Area and Characterization of Regional and Super-Regional Transportation of Ozone” would be completed next year, we hope to see interim reports and also solid plans to reduce ozone emission.
6. The EPD used data from general air quality monitoring stations to prove that air quality met standards in 2021, while in fact the air pollution level was much higher in roadside monitoring stations (Mong Kok, Central, Causeway Bay).The sampling heights above ground of general stations (see below table) varies and are not comparable; they are also much higher than roadside stations, thus not reflecting the quality of the air that citizens are breathing in on a daily basis. We urge the government to set up roadside stations in each district in order to have a more accurate measurement of air pollution levels.