Chief Executive, Please Safeguard Hong Kong’s Air Quality

Hong Kong Chief Executive Ms Carrie Lam will deliver her annual Policy Address on October 14th, 2020. 

Friends of the Earth (HK) would like to share our policy recommendations in a four-part series. 

Here is a preview.

Air pollution is worse than we thought:

  1. Roadside air quality still fails to meet the AQOs1 set by EPD (Table 1)
  2. Even if the air quality meets EPD standards, we are not truly protected as they are not fully in line with WHO guidelines2 (Table 2)
  3. Air pollution exposure is well-known in leading to a host of heart and lung diseases and early mortality (Figure 1)
  4. More recent studies also show that air pollution may impede childhood brain development3 
  5. Air pollution may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia

Table 1. Annual exposure to NO2 in 2019. Darkened cells mean exposure exceeded limits set by EPD5 

Table 2. EPD AQOs and WHO AQGs on air pollutants

Figure 1. Air Polllution - The Invisible Killer (WHO)

Clean our air, promote alternative transport:

  1. Tighten AQOs to meet WHO guidelines
  2. Target the phase out of fossil fuel vehicles by 2050 or earlier
  3. Implement congestion pricing and low emission zones to decongest busy road networks (Figure 2)
  4. Cap private car ownership to limit the growth of vehicle numbers7 
  5. Promote walking by claiming and pedestrianising roads into car-free zones
  6. Enable bicycles as a safe and viable mode of transport by installing cycling infrastructures (Figure 3)

Figure 2. Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing System

Figure 3. Global Bicycle Cities Index 2019 | Coya

Air pollution does not just ruin the visual environment but also harms our health. COVID-19 need not be just a setback; this is a perfect opportunity to stimulate green investment, create green jobs, and transition towards a more sustainable Hong Kong. The Government must not plan the city’s recovery to merely return to "business-as-usual” but take the chance to for a just and green transition.


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