wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09HONGKONG599
2009-03-31 09:43:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Consulate Hong Kong
Cable title:  

HONG KONG AIMS LOW ON AIR QUALITY STANDARDS

Tags:   SFNV  TPHY  HK  CH 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO4865
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHHK #0599/01 0900943
ZNR UUUUU ZZH EP EXS OLA PA
R 310943Z MAR 09
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7291
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 000599 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SFNV TPHY HK CH
SUBJECT: HONG KONG AIMS LOW ON AIR QUALITY STANDARDS



1. (U) SUMMARY: The Hong Kong Government has proposed the
adoption of World Heath Organization (WHO) Tier 1 Interim
Target Air Quality Standards for three of four major
pollutant categories. The full adoption of WHO Air Quality
Goals is a long-term objective. Hong Kong NGOs and civic
groups are crying foul at the recommendations, claiming the
proposed WHO Tier 1 Standards are designed for developing
countries that lack resources or capabilities, do not
consider the full impact of pollution on public health, and
are inappropriate for Hong Kong.



2. (SBU) COMMENT: The NGOs make a good point. Current Hong
Kong air pollution levels for sulphur dioxide, one of the
categories proposed for WHO Tier 1 adoption, are already well
under the limit set by the WHO Tier 1 Standard and very close
to meeting the WHO Air Quality Goal (AQG); it would be
relatively easy to meet the AQG with expected improvements
from already programmed projects. The HKG-sponsored study
backing the standards claims to be driven by public health
concerns but contains no health impact data or analysis,
instead focusing on economic analysis explaining why stricter
standards are too painful to adopt. NGOs privately speculate
that the low standards proposed by the HKG anticipate future
overall air pollution increases resulting from major
infrastructure projects like the Hong Kong/Zhuhai Bridge.
Early studies suggest that, once complete, this bridge alone
could bring an additional 10,000 mainland Chinese trucks to
Hong Kong's shipping terminals daily, introducing a
significant new stream of air pollution into the city. END
COMMENT.

Adoption of WHO Air Quality Standards


--------------------------




3. (U) On March 20, the HKG Environmental Protection
Department (EPD) formally released the results of an 18-month
review of Hong Kong's Air Quality Objectives (AQO) and
proposed a plan for the development of a long-term air
quality strategy for Hong Kong. (Hong Kong's current AQO's
have not been reviewed or modified since 1987.) Advance
copies of the study, completed by a private consultancy
group, were provided to the Legislative Council (LegCo) on
March 19. The public eagerly anticipated the release; an
EPD-organized press conference drew a crowd of approximately
450 people. The plan's release begins a one-month public
consultation period during which the recommendations can be
modified before they are formally adopted as Hong Kong's new
Air Quality Standards.


4. (U) Hong Kong plans to replace its current 1987 standards
by adopting WHO AQOs, but generally at Interim Target (IT)
levels. These ITs were designed in three tiers by the WHO as

stepping stones to assist countries reach the a final WHO Air
Quality Goals (AQG) deemed as the minimum standards necessary
by the WHO to protect public health. Under the plan, Hong
Kong will adopt WHO ITs or AQGs for the following pollutants:
- Sulphur Dioxide ) IT-1 (125 Micrograms per Cubic Meter per
24 hrs)
- Respirable Suspended Particulates (PM10) ) IT-2 (100
Micrograms per Cubic Meter per 24 hrs)
- Fine Respirable Suspended Particulates (PM2.5) ) IT-1 (75
Micrograms per Cubic Meter per 24 hrs)
- Nitrogen Dioxide ) WHO AQG (200 Micrograms per Cubic Meter
per 1 hr)
- Ozone ) IT-1 (160 Micrograms per Cubic Meter per 8 hrs)
- Carbon Monoxide ) WHO AQG (30,000 Micrograms per Cubic
Meter per 1 hr)
- Lead ) WHO AQG (.5 Micrograms per Cubic Meter per 1 yr)

(NOTE: Hong Kong's air quality is already within the WHO AQG
for both carbon monoxide and lead and very close to the AQG
of 20 micrograms per cubic meter per 24 hrs for sulphur
dioxide, on most days measuring at 22. There are no WHO ITs
for nitrogen dioxide. END NOTE.)



5. (U) To achieve these new AQOs, the study recommended 36
steps or actions which could be taken to reduce emissions and
provided a cost-benefit analysis on each of these to
determine the financial impact if accepted. Specific
recommendations ranged from increasing the use of natural gas
in local electricity generation to 50% (already a stated
goal), to the mandatory implementation of building energy
codes, to a 25% reduction of parking spaces in Hong Kong's
Central Business District to discourage commuters from
driving into the city. The study also recommends that the
full adoption of WHO AQGs be pursued as Hong Kong's stated
long-term aspirational goal while taking progressive steps to
tighten adopted AQOs. The study did not make a firm
recommendation on the interval between AQO reviews, but noted
that about every five years was the normal international
practice.


HONG KONG 00000599 002 OF 002


The NGO and Civic Organization Response


--------------------------





6. (SBU) NGOs and civic organization reacted to the study
politely but are clearly disappointed. Many of those present
had pushed hard for the adoption of WHO AQOs and expressed
frustration at the recommendation to adopt the lowest
possible or T-1 Standards. Questioners pointed out that Hong
Kong's air quality already significantly exceeds the entry
level standards for some pollutants and, despite the claim
that public health was the key parameter for determining the
new AQOs, health was not mentioned in the text and did not
appear to be a factor in the analysis. In response to these
criticisms, EPD representatives said the raw data and
underlying assumptions used by the consultation firm in their
analysis would be made available to the public. Public input
and comments will be solicited through the end of April.
Final AQOs will be submitted to LegCo for review in May and
are expected to implemented by the end of 2009.
DONOVAN