Hong Kong will offer HK$12 billion ($1.5 billion) in subsidies to replace old diesel vehicles, a 20 percent increase from an initial proposal, to clean up its smoggy streets.
The increase from HK$10 billion for vehicle owners was made after consultation with the industry, Christine Loh, the city’s undersecretary for environment, said today. The money will be used to “clean up the dirtiest vehicles,” she said.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has made cleaning up Hong Kong’s streets a priority since taking over more than a year ago, as the city’s air fails to match up to that of New York and London. Air quality has worsened since 2007, with aging buses and trucks a key cause of pollution.
“We will start the scheme very soon,” Loh said. “We have an agreement with the industry and we’re going to our legislature for the money.”
The city’s Environmental Protection Department recorded “very high” air pollution levels at its three roadside monitoring stations today, and the readings are expected to remain above normal levels in the next couple of days, the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
As 2 p.m. local time, the index was was 191 in the Central business district, 160 in the Causeway Bay shopping district and 112 in Mong Kok in Kowloon. A reading of more than 100 triggers a government warning for people with heart or respiratory illnesses to avoid prolonged stays in heavy-traffic areas.
Smog was responsible for more than 1,600 premature deaths in the first half of the year, according to a study by the Clean Air Network.
Leung announced the subsidy plan in his first policy speech in January as a measure to cut particulates emissions by 80 percent and nitrogen oxides by 30 percent. Some 86,000 pre-Euro and Euro I to III diesel commercial vehicles could be replaced, and the government is also working with companies to install converters on more than 20,000 older buses and cabs to improve emissions, according to a statement today from the environment bureau.
There are five EU standards on vehicle emissions, with I the least stringent and V the most.
Hong Kong is also seeking to enact legislation that will mandate ships berthing at its ports to switch to cleaner fuel over the next two years.