Restoring Blue Skies:
Review of the Policy Agenda on Air Pollution
Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce

April 2008

(Full Paper)

Synopsis of ideas and recommendations

1.     The Chamber cares about the environment.  We share the community’s concern over air quality, among other environmental issues.  The HKSAR Government has taken bold steps and practical measures to tackle air pollution, such as replacing diesel light buses with cleaner fuel ones, retrofit particulate removal devices on pre-Euro diesel vehicles, enhance vapor recovery systems in petrol filling stations, tighten motor fuel standards, reduce VOC emissions from the printing process, etc.  The 2007 Policy Address by the Chief Executive is laudable in promising a wide range of further actions to reduce emissions, including possible legislation on building energy codes and energy efficiency labeling, carbon audit, environmentally beneficial regulatory arrangement for power plants, legislation on ultra-low sulphur diesel and idling engines, possible introduction of road pricing, and facilitation of clean production technologies in the Pearl River Delta (PRD).  These all have the Chamber’s full support.

2.     However, despite strenuous efforts over the past years, the air quality we experience has apparently deteriorated, not improved.  Hong Kong as a community must be ready to acknowledge that the current emissions are exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment, and therefore total emissions must be reduced.  Apart from the health hazard, we are also concerned that poor air quality is affecting our reputation as an international business and tourism centre, and is becoming a threat to our competitiveness.

3.     And the picture does not look good for the future.  If one takes the HKSAR Government’s 2030 Planning Vision and Strategy study as a guide, one can anticipate substantial growth in energy and emissions arising from development and cross border transport.  On business-as-usual basis, to achieve improvements in air quality and environment in general will be extremely challenging.  What needs changing is not simply regulations and measures, but a whole new way of thinking and perhaps a different, more sustainable way of life.  Truly, the sustainability of Hong Kong is at stake if environment is not given a higher priority in the policy agenda.

4.     To achieve real improvements in air quality would therefore require a concerted effort by all sectors of the community.  For the business sector, market forces remains the preferred means of problem-solving, but a pre-requisite has to be a fundamental culture change to “internalise” social costs into corporate operations.  Voluntary efforts like the Project Clean Air initiated by the Chamber in association with the Business Coalition on the Environment (BCE), while important, are unlikely to resolve the problem without the support of appropriate mandatory measures.  On the other hand, regulations may create other problems such as rising cost of compliance, especially for SMEs.  Given the diversity of the business sector in Hong Kong and the PRD – big companies versus small players, advanced plants operating to international standards versus small village productions, etc., – no single solution will be able to address the full range of challenges encountered by different enterprises.

5.     Across the border, while the pressure for growth might have caused some reluctance to fully implement environmental policies in the past, both the government and the business sector have made tremendous progress in tackling pollution, as evidenced in the 11th Five Year Plan.  This renewed energy for environmental protection should be fully harnessed. 

6.     Air pollution has been featured prominently in all of the Chamber’s recent Policy Address Submissions.  There is no shortage of ideas on combating air pollution, whether in policies and regulations (e.g. pollution control standards in the Mainland) or on public campaigns (e.g. the Chamber’s Project Clean Air or the government’s Action Blue Sky).  What is needed is now to find the key drivers for change, to “press the right buttons” to achieve sustainable results.  As the business Chamber with the broadest representation of the general business community, the Chamber would like to put forward a package of 43 action-oriented ideas and recommendations, organized under ten headings to reflect different aspects of the problem, to supplement the various initiatives in the Policy Address. These ten aspects include the following:

The wider context
  Global citizenship
2.  Cooperation with the Mainland

Everyday challenges
  Energy policy
Demand side management
  Infrastructure and urban planning
Sustainable transport
.  Green procurement

The support structures
8.  Pollution tracking
Transparency and reporting
Building human capital for sustainability

7.     Under these ten headings, there are a total of 43 ideas and recommendations (numbered in brackets throughout the text below.)  Some of the proposals in this paper may be innovative, others may be potentially difficult, but we are hopeful that through continual discussion and debate, we shall help the government and the community build consensus on one of the most pressing issues confronting Hong Kong as a world-class international city.


One: Global citizenship
Two: Cooperation with the Mainland
Three: Energy policy
Four: Demand-side Management
Five: Infrastructure and urban planning
Six: Sustainable transport
Seven: Green procurement
Eight: Pollution tracking
Nine: Transparency and reporting
Ten: Building human capital for sustainability

The Way Forward

(Full Paper)