Learn from London says Hong Kong think tank

Hong Kong needs to take a leaf out of the book of world cities like London and Los Angeles and take serious action to address its air pollution - or its economy will pay a high price.

This is the message of the city’s influential Civic Exchange think tank, which argues that Hong Kong’s air quality objectives are outdated, lagging behind those of other cities and are little more than a licence to pollute.

In the organisation’s analysis, London and LA neatly reflect the European and American strategies in addressing environmental woes.

London’s air quality management strategy focuses on energy efficiency and ‘demand management’ – a reference to the polluter-pays Congestion Charge and incoming Low Emissions Zone – while LA promotes technological solutions to abate emissions.

Hong Kong needs to take note of the successes in these cities, says the Civic Exchange, and see if similar strategies can be applied there.

The city’s air pollution is notoriously bad, with emissions from its own factories, busy port and commerce aggravated by smog from ageing coal-fired power stations in neighbouring mainland China.

The problem has become so severe that many commercial property advisors are telling would-be landlords to buy office space in other Asian financial hubs such as Singapore instead and analysts have warned of a future talent drain as the brightest and the best look to work in less polluted cities.

Road pricing in London and LA’s clean port policy set up to deal with the specific problems of shipping emissions and marine pollution were flagged up as being particularly beneficial if replicated in Hong Kong.

Christine Loh, chief executive of the Civic Exchange told reporters: “Political leadership and multi-stakeholder collaboration were critical to the successes of London and LA.

“There is an urgent need to devise a comprehensive air quality management plan and to bring various stakeholders together to make it work.”

Sam Bond

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