Chief Executive missed the largest source of pollution

Feature Story - 2006-10-12
The Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, vows to enact “proactive and pragmatic” measures in his policy address, but while he spent much money in short-term measures to win achievements, a concrete and visionary environmental policy is still missing in Tsang’s so-called “last policy address”.

2006-2007 Policy Address

It is statistically proved that the coal-fired power plants are the city's largest polluters, which share over 90% of total sulphur dioxide and nearly 50% of nitrogen oxides emissions. Unfortunately, while Tsang's measures to subsidise the vehicle switch was widely covered by the media, his willingness to combat the power plants' pollution is already over-shadowed by the lax emission caps set by the Environmental Protection Department in the recent renewal of license to the Hongkong Electric. Even though Tsang showed verbal determination not to compromise in negotiating the next Scheme of Control agreement with the power plants, his goodwill will be doomed to failure if determination does not turn into real claws.

According to Greenpeace estimate, the HEC's Lamma Island power plant was granted the emission caps between 2006 and 2008. But far away from the suggested 18,800 tonnes of sulphur dioxide, EPD approved a cap of only 28,200 tonnes for 2008. According to EPD statistics, sulphur dioxide emission rose by 47% between 1997 and 2004, which reverses the trend of emission reduction, as well as contradicting the Chief Executive claims of lowering level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in Hong Kong.

On the other hand, Tsang put much effort in addressing vehicle's emissions. Not to mention the deal is not targeting at the main source of air pollution in the territory, this carrot is even without the stick. While subsidies for switching the old diesel vehicles to the more environmentally friendly models will be granted, penalties and emissions standards for the emissions are not raised at the same time. This will reduce incentives for vehicles to switch.

As we stated before, "pragmatic" tactics alone are totally insufficient for tackling long-term issues like environmental problems. While giving short-term solutions, a long-term vision should always be registered in his mind to combat the 'City's Largest Polluter', the power plants. A more comprehensive and regional energy blueprint, such as tapping wind power potential in the neighbouring Guangdong Province should be considered to facilitate energy development more economically.

The Chief Executive should also take further steps to consider ways to help tackle pollution by Hong Kong investors in the Pearl River Delta. There are enormous economic opportunities to explore from Hong Kong as a financial centre such as attracting more investments to pollution abatement equipment and clean production. All in all, if Tsang wants to win people's heart for the next term of office, he must not only demonstrate his ability in solving imminent problems, but also develop a genuine proactive and visionary environmental policy towards a sustainable future.