China sets pace for smoggy Hong Kong
HONG KONG BEIJING’S decision to come clean on its dirty air has embarrassed Hong Kong, where smog kills hundreds of people a year, hurts business and drives away talent, a think-tank has said.
Mike Kilburn, head of environmental strategy at nonprofit group Civic Exchange, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s failure to fix the city’s air quality could have far-reaching consequences for its competitiveness.
“The Hong Kong government must introduce new air quality objectives immediately, especially now that China has put out its own air quality objective,” he told.
“Hong Kong is in a highly embarrassing position now that China has introduced new measures.” Beijing last week bowed to a vocal online campaign for a change in the way air quality is measured and pledged to start publishing figures showing the smallest, most dangerous pollution particles.
The Chinese capital currently bases its air quality information on particles of 10 micrometres or larger, known as PM10, and does not take into account the smaller particulates that experts say are most harmful to human health. The Beijing Environmental Bureau said it would provide hourly updates of measurements of particles of 2.5 micrometres or less, known as PM2.5, ahead of the Lunar New Year on January 23.
The mainland authorities’ move came after Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said roadside pollution levels in the southern financial hub were the worst ever last year.
Measurements in the Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok districts indicated that pollution levels were 10 times worse than in 2005 on more than one day out of every five.
A recent ranking of cities by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in respect of PM2.5 placed Hong Kong — which competes with Singapore as Asia’s banking powerhouse — at 559th out of 566 cities.