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Change In Pollution Law Relaxes Controls Over Power Plants

SCMP – Updated on Apr 19, 2008

Legislators are asking why the bill to amend the Air Pollution Control Ordinance does not cap emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants (“Carbon caps for power plants mean high bills”, April 11).

They are missing the point. The bill does not seek to tighten the existing controls over power plant emissions but to relax them.

The ordinance at present allows the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to set emissions caps for power plants in Hong Kong having regard to:

  • The best practical means for preventing the emission of air pollutants;
  • The attainment and maintenance of the government’s air quality objectives; and
  • The extent to which emissions are prejudicial to health.

The EPD does not need additional legal powers to require the power companies to fit scrubbers and use other “best practical means” for reducing their emissions.

What is new in the bill is the proposal that the EPD should be able to relax emissions caps so that the Hong Kong power companies can buy emissions credits (essentially licences to pollute) under a recognised emissions trading scheme.

The bill would give the power companies the right to appeal if the EPD refuses their application to buy emissions credits.

The bill gives the general public in Hong Kong no right to challenge the granting of an application, even if the increase in allowed emissions would worsen local air quality and be prejudicial to health.

The EPD has promised its counterpart in Guangdong to implement the pilot cross-border emissions trading scheme that they announced in January 2007. It is right that it should do so.

However, it is regrettable that the proposed amendment treats emissions trading as a private matter between the EPD and the power companies and fails to impose any duty on the EPD to exercise its new power with a view to improving air quality in Hong Kong.

David Renton, Repulse Bay

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