Hong Kong and its neighbours in the Pearl River Delta should establish a “regional think tank” and work closely to tackle air pollution in the region, according to a Beijing-based expert.
Professor Zhu Tong, dean of Peking University’s college of environmental sciences and engineering, said: “Air pollutants don’t recognise borders, they transfer through air whatever they can transfer and this makes it a regional problem rather than a local one.”
Cross-border air pollution has become a heated subject in Hong Kong, with many blaming the use of coal-fired power plants north of the border. A recent air quality study commissioned by Greenpeace linked 3,600 deaths and 4,000 cases of child asthma in 2011 to air pollution in the region caused by 96 plants in Guangdong and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong and its provincial counterparts have tried to work together to mitigate regional air pollution, including setting common reduction targets up to 2020. Both were forced to lower the targets last year after the original ones proved too ambitious.
Zhu proposed the formation of an independent think tank focused on co-ordinating regional air pollution research and providing cost-benefit analysis on air quality policies and measures.
“We need to find a way of institutionalising the research conducted in the region to provide systematic and consistent support for air quality policy,” said Zhu.
“If we get enough support, we will be able to establish it within the next few years.”
Its first initiative could be a cost-benefit analysis on existing measures in Hong Kong to see if they could be replicated elsewhere.
Zhu said if the proposal bore fruit, a similar partnership could be adopted to solve pollution in other regions such as the Yangtze River Delta area.
Air quality in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei failed to meet government air quality standards on 62.5 per cent of days in the third quarter.