Air pollution in Hong Kong

As I wrote previously on this website an article on China and the pollution issues it is facing, I wanted to go deeper in this important problem. This is why I will exemplify with the case of the Hong Kong administrative region.

Hong Kong (also known as HK) is a 6.9-million people urban area constituted by more than 260 islands. It is located in Eastern Asia, and is bordering the South China Sea. Hong Kong has 30 kilometres of regional borders with the People’s Republic of China. This large city has the privilege to enjoy more than 700 kilometres of coastline, which makes it a perfect harbour.

The city’s booming economy is based mostly on services. As a matter of fact, 90 percent of the city’s economy is based on the tertiary industry.

According to Clear The Air, a local NGO “committed to improving the air quality in Hong Kong” and from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD ; website), the air pollution mostly comes from power plants. These plants are indeed responsible for 50 percent of the air pollution. The second major factor is the transportation system with 25 percent of air pollution (Source).

99 percent of all the energy consumed in Hong Kong is fossil fuels generated. There are three Power plants in the Hong Kong Administrative Region. The two largest are coal-fired and the third one is Natural gas-fired. Other coal-fired plants located in the delta river area also contribute to air pollution in the HK area.

Concerning Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in Hong Kong, most are due to the energy industries as they account for 60 percent, the second one is transportation. Waste accounts for around 10 percent of GHG emissions. Carbon Dioxide, the main GHG, saw its emissions decreased from 1990 to 1999. 1990 represented the worst year. Nowadays, the CO² emissions rose from 1999 but have been almost stable for the last three years. However, when it comes to other harmful gases like methane (CH4) their emissions are increasing.

In the meantime, the electricity consumption in Hong Kong is rapidly expanding. It is estimated by the EPD, an official HK body, that the electricity consumption in the area raised by more than 60 percent between 1990 and 2004 (source). In these conditions it is urgent to stabilise or even decrease the electricity consumption and thus to save energy. With the technologies used there, increasing the consumption of energy will undoubtedly increase the air pollution.

As an example we can mention that in order to decrease air conditioning, a major source of electricity use in subtropical regions, insulating housings and company premises would prove to be profitable.

Turning to cleaner transportation technologies, with cars and buses needing less energy to operate is also of vital importance. Promoting public transportation system would also prove to be good for locals. Hybrid and electricity cars and vehicles are also another way, along with bicycles to decrease in a very effective manner the GHG emissions due to transportation.

Regarding the potential of renewable energies in the HK area, they could help in improving the air quality of Hong Kong. The climate, according to the CIA world Fact book is “subtropical” and during fall the weather is warm and sunny. So, the climate is favourable to solar. In any case, it would be worth to install a lot of solar panels with both Photovoltaic and thermal technologies in order to decrease the reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Wind power entered the HK area with one wind turbine located on Lamma Island. According to Hong Kong Electric Holding (HEH ; website) the wind turbine enables to save “the amount of coal burned for energy by about 350 tonnes annually.” Still according to HEH, other wind turbines could be launched. An exhibition centre promotes green energy in the HK area.

To conclude, we can only hope that the Hong Kong area will take strong action against air pollution. This problem is indeed the main issue this large urban area is facing. Failing in solving this problem will strongly jeopardize the economic growth and attractivity of the whole area. Furthermore, if Hong Kong was to solve this problem, it could be an example for China or large cities worldwide and hence gain further recognition.

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