For information
on 2 July 1999

Legislative Council
Panel on Environmental Affairs

Actions to Improve Hong Kong Air Quality


We announced on 5 June 1999 a number of measures to control the air pollution problems in Hong Kong. This paper provides Members with additional information on the measures.

Air Pollution Problems

2. We face three problems with air pollution. The first is at street level, where most of the problem is with emissions from Hong Kong's own vehicle fleet. The second is with ambient air. Besides emissions from vehicles, power stations, industry, ships and construction sites all add to the cocktail. The third problem is a regional problem with air quality causing acid rain, haze and smog due to developments locally and across South China.

3. The street level pollution issue is serious and is our prime target for early action. Diesel vehicles are the main cause because of their considerable emissions of particulates and their heavy usage. In Hong Kong, diesel vehicles constitute 30% of all vehicles whereas in Singapore the figure is 17%, in the UK 10% and in the USA 4%. Moreover, diesel vehicles account for about 70% of all vehicle miles driven in Hong Kong. Therefore, the main targets of our control actions are to reduce the emissions from diesel vehicles.

4. The next major objective is to address regional air quality, the deterioration in which has been apparent in the reduced visibility in recent years. Air pollution from local sources apart from vehicles has largely been brought under control, and we will continue with programmes to maintain this, particularly through energy efficiency measures.

Current Motor Vehicle Emission Control Measures

5. To deal with the air pollution problems from diesel vehicles, we are implementing a number of measures including:

  1. working to introduce LPG taxis on a large scale by end 2000 and working with the public light bus trade to launch a trial of LPG public light buses;

  2. monitoring the development of advanced motor vehicle emission control technology and clean fuel vehicles with an aim to introduce them for a trial in Hong Kong;

  3. imposing the most stringent practicable requirements for the emissions of newly registered vehicles and for cleaner auto fuel as soon as these can be made commercially available in Hong Kong;

  4. requiring all commercial vehicles to have smoke checks during their roadworthiness inspections;

  5. operating a smoky vehicle control programme and introducing an advanced smoke test (by a chassis dynamometer) to check the smoke emissions of smoky vehicles:

  6. enhancing the Police's enforcement against smoky vehicles by equipping them with portable smokemeters;

  7. educating drivers not to idle engines.

New Action Initiatives

6. To intensify effort to reduce vehicular emissions, we have identified a number of additional measures targeting different classes of vehicles and seeking to deal with the problems on all possible fronts. These measures are:

  1. Buses : A diesel catalyst can reduce up to 50% of the particulates emissions from a diesel vehicle. Early this year, we completed a 3-year trial with the Kowloon Motor Bus Company Ltd. to retrofit diesel catalysts onto in-use buses. The trial confirmed the effectiveness of diesel catalysts. Subsequently, the franchised bus companies have now agreed to retrofit some 2000 buses that do not meet the Euro II emission standards over the next 2 years.

    The Transport Department is rationalizing the number of bus stops to reduce congestion, improve traffic flow, and reduce pollution. The programme in Central, Wanchai and Causeway Bay has already resulted in 1,730 stops an hour being reduced in peak hours. It will be extended to Eastern, Kwun Tong, Yuen Long, Tsuen Wan and Tai Po in second half of 1999.

  2. Heavy Diesel Vehicles: To extend the retrofit of diesel catalysts to other heavy diesel vehicles, we will be launching a trial of diesel catalysts on 20 Government heavy diesel vehicles later this year. In collaboration with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the private sector will be encouraged to put up a similar number of diesel vehicles for trial for working out a retrofit programme for in-use vehicles.

  3. Light Diesel Vehicles: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University is developing low-cost particulate traps, which are capable of reducing about 20% of the particulates emissions from diesel vehicles up to 4 tonnes. We will support them to launch a trial of the trap on 60 light diesel vehicles including equal numbers of taxis, public light buses and light goods vehicles in this year, to identify whether they are viable under operating conditions in different categories of vehicle.

  4. Fuels: Using ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel can help reduce about 10% of the particulates and Nitrogen oxides emissions and about 90% of the sulphur dioxide emissions from a diesel vehicle. We are seeking to introduce ultra-low sulphur diesel, initially for the franchised bus fleet.

    We will work with industry to upgrade the standard of industrial diesel from 0.5% to 0.05% in sulphur content, to match that for vehicle fuel.

  5. Enforcement: The Police and the Environmental Protection Department are stepping up their street enforcement programme against smoky vehicles.

    The Environmental Protection Department will expand its smoky vehicle spotter scheme by 300 spotters this year and is working to introduce an advanced smoke test (by means of a dynamometer) for light diesel vehicles up to 5.5 tonnes in this September. The dynamometer smoke test will be extended to larger diesel vehicles in 2000.

    The Customs and Excise Department is increasing enforcement against vehicles using illegal motor fuel and against suppliers of illegal fuel.

  6. Education: As cleaning up the air involves everybody, we are now distributing a booklet explaining the air pollution problems and the control measures in force; a pamphlet on how individuals and different groups can help clean the air; and a pamphlet on eco-driving techniques. They have been sent to Members earlier.

    Later this year, we will organise seminars for the vehicle service trade to promote proper maintenance to reduce emissions and to familiarize them with the dynamometer smoke tests. Seminars will also be organised to disseminate eco-driving techniques to drivers.

  7. Legislation: We shall put forward a proposal to increase the fixed penalty fine for smoky vehicles for this Council to consider in this year.

    At the moment, we are considering options to control idling vehicles and will put forward a proposal for public consultation in the next few months.

  8. Government Fleet: To set an example on improving environmental performance, the Government vehicle fleet will implement a comprehensive programme including:

    • About 1,000 pre-Euro I diesel vehicles are to be replaced with Euro II vehicles (or better ) within three years.

    • The use of the fleet is to be reviewed to ensure optimal use of existing vehicles. Pending the outcome of the review, the passenger vehicle fleet will be frozen for 1 year.

    • We will use the Government fleet to try out new technology vehicles.

    • The environmental performance of vehicles will be included as one of the assessment criteria for hired car contracts.

    • Government fleet managers and drivers will be educated on environmental responsibility.

  9. Pedestrianization: We have set up an inter-departmental action group to identify street level pollution blackspots that can benefit from pedestrianisation, traffic management measures or other means which may reduce pedestrian exposure to pollution and to coordinate the implementation of improvement measures. Initially, target areas are to be identified in Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.

Regional Air Quality

7. We are now working with Guangdong to secure co-ordinated action to deal with the regional air quality problems that have become more evident in recent years. A joint study with Guangdong to provide the basis for a regional action plan is starting this year.

The Challenge and the Partnership

8. The new initiatives set out above are targeted at bringing the level of respirable suspended particulates in the air down to within air quality objectives as quickly as possible. Keeping them down, and cutting back on other air pollutants against the pressures of rising population, economic activity and demand for transport is one of the toughest challenges that Hong Kong has to face, but it is a challenge that the Administration is determined to overcome. We will not stop with the above measures. Securing clean air for Hong Kong is a continuing task. We look forward to Members, business and community groups joining in effective partnerships with the Administration to clean up Hong Kong's air.

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
June 1999