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Hong Kong Targets Power Supply

By Robin Kwong in Hong Kong – Financial Times

Published: February 19 2008 01:34 | Last updated: February 19 2008 01:34

Hong Kong’s environment secretary has warned the city’s power companies to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, a big source of air pollution, by a substantial amount within two years.

“Contrary to the common belief that we are producing power in a cleaner fashion, as of today that is not the case,” Edward Yau ­told the Financial Times on Monday as he prepared to impose stringent emission regulations.

The Hong Kong government is to propose legislation on Wednesday to allow China Light & Power and Hong Kong Electric, the city’s two power companies, to meet targets by trading emission credits with counterparts in neighbouring Guangdong province.

As part of the proposal, Mr Yau will lower the cap for sulphur dioxide emissions by Hong Kong power companies to 25,000 tonnes in 2010. Power generation accounts for nearly 90 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions in the city; in 2006 the power groups pushed out 65,000 tonnes of the gas.

“These [2010 targets] are ambitious targets,” he said. “These are targets that are achievable if there is true commitment and good investment and application of technology. I think they are achievable but it will take effort.”

Rapid industrialisation of Guangdong province in recent years has meant smoggy skies are the norm in Hong Kong and international investors, as well as local residents, are calling for the government to rectify the situation.

“No one [in Hong Kong] would ask [whether air pollution is a serious problem or not] any more because they all consider it as one of the most serious concerns that affects their livelihood,” Mr Yau said.

He said the legal framework for emissions trading on Hong Kong’s side could be ready within a year, pending approval by legislators. He did not, however, give a date for similar legislation in Guangdong.

The move to introduce emissions trading comes soon after the Hong Kong government reached an agreement with the two power companies on a regulatory system that will for the first time link their maximum allowed profits to their environmental performance.

The government has also recently launched a HK$93m (US$12m, €8m, £6m) drive to help local businesses with factories in Guangdong province clean up production.

Mr Yau remained coy on when the public could expect to see improved air quality. “Even if, within the year, there is a single day when we see a smoggy sky, people will still ask why and whether we can do better,” he said. “There is no limit for people’s aspirations for clean air.”

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