Three-Quarters Oppose Government’s Air Quality Proposals

The Environment Bureau has commenced a three-month public consultation on the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) Review. In light of this, Clean Air Network (CAN) and the AQO Review Concern Group commissioned the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (formerly the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong) to conduct a phone survey on the Government’s AQO proposal. 

Most interviewees (73%) are unsatisfied with the government proposal to relax the “allowable exceedances” from 9 times to 35 times for PM2.5 daily average level, although they also acknowledge the proposed level is tightened up progressively. More than half (59%) interviewees reject the selective scope of the review on tightening AQOs of PM2.5 and SO2 only. 

The Concern Group hereby condemns the Government for avoiding true public consultation on the most controversial issue. “The non-negotiable proposal to allow more exceedances of the new PM2.5 limit not only shows a blatant disregard for people’s expectations but also shows a wilful neglect for the well-documented adverse public health impacts of such a move, as raised by academics and air science professionals,” said Patrick Fung, the Concern Group Representative. 

“The people have made their opinion loud and clear. Given the health risks associated with air pollution, the Government’s conservative approach and the half-truths of its public consultation document are absolutely unacceptable,” said Fung. 

The Concern Group urges the Government to immediately revoke the proposal to relax the number of allowable exceedances and to amend the AQOs in accordance with WHO Air Quality Guidelines, in line with its own guidelines on prioritising public health. 

The comments were summarized as below: 

1. Misguide and Seceive: “35 Exceedances” and Public Health 

2. A Failure to Listen 

3. Lacking Ambition: Practicability Over Everything 

4. EU is no “Role Model” 

5. Painting the Wrong Picture: “Apples and Oranges” Comparison with EU 

Overall, the Concern Group is appalled by the lack of flexibility and investment demonstrated by the Government. An inordinate amount of time has been channelled into a single exhaustive model, which has become the benchmark for all subsequent decisions; and while the model no doubt offers an accurate scenario based on its inputs and assumptions, it is just one set of assumptions, and inflexible to the subsequent will of the people. As our survey shows, the model’s conclusion – 35 exceedances for PM2.5 – is rejected by the vast majority of the population. While it is too late for this five-year review, the Government may consider investing more in future AQO Reviews, such that faster computer modelling and a more flexible approach can be adopted.

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