Like us folks in the Mainland, Hong Kongers are getting sick and tired of the PM2.5, the smog, the haze, and the cancer. Unlike the Mainland, Hong Kong legislators are (or, at least, think they are) within only a few years of cleaning up their skies.
Christine Loh Kung-wai, the city’s undersecretary for the environment, told the South China Morning Post that plans are in effect that should “drastically improve” Hong Kong’s air before 2020. These goals include, among others, targets like a 20% reduction in sulphur emissions, replacing diesel vehicles with cleaner-burning cars and trucks, and adopting the European Union’s vehicle emissions standards.
Many of these plans are already well underway: Hong Kong has developed a new air-quality metric, the Air Quality Health Index, which should provide a more accurate index on pollutants and irritants than the previously used Air Pollution Index. Cutting down on sulphur emissions is also within grasp, and Loh says that the city is “well on target to achieve landmark goals.”
By 2016, “all pre-Euro vehicles will be banned from the street,” Loh told SCMP, meaning that any vehicle that cannot pass the European Union emissions testing will be barred from the city’s streets. That deadline is rapidly approaching, and Loh and her colleagues have begun planning incentives for Hong Kong drivers to adopt newer, cleaner vehicles.
One of the biggest changes will happen at the industrial level, where a “mandatory fuel switch,” will force ocean-going vessels in the Pearl River Delta to adopt low-sulphur fuel and use clean marine diesel, with deadlines as close as April 1st of this year.
Hong Kong is a significantly smaller and easier place to clean-up than the Mainland, where air-purifying efforts are estimated to take decades and cost trillions of yuan. Nevertheless, these experiments in Hong Kong may, if nothing else, give everyone a lovely place to go when in need of some fresh air.