Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Environment: Letter to (then) Financial Secretary John Tsang on 29th Dec 2016

Dear Financial Secretary,
Through years of hard work by the EPD, Hong Kong is finally seeing signs of improvement in our city’s overall air quality. According to the Hedley Environmental Index, loss of tangible cost and loss of healthy life values seem to have shown gradual improvement since 2015. Despite the downtrend in the number of premature deaths, hospital bed-days, doctor visits and air pollutants, Hong Kong is absolutely capable of performing even better in all aspects related to improving air quality, healthy quality as well as combating climate change. Effort should not be cut after seeing initial positive results, instead it should be doubled.
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Based on emission blueprint described by the environment secretary Wong Kam-sing to SCMP ahead of COP21, “By "around 2020", Hong Kong will be on track to reduce its carbon intensity - emissions per unit of GDP - by 50 to 60 per cent and energy intensity by up to 40 per cent. By that year, it will have already met its 2010 target of reducing total emissions by 19 to 33 per cent from 2005 level,” but Greenpeace has called for an even more aggressive schemes to cut emission.

European countries and cities are moving away from fossil-fuel cars due to roadside emissions. For example, Germany has passed a resolution to ban fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.

Therefore, I have the following suggestions for your consideration for the coming budget and future budgets to come:
1.           Consider following the above European countries by announcing a total ban for ICEVs in Hong Kong, hopefully before Singapore does.
2.           Extend the FRT waiver for Pure EVs for at least another 3 years till 2020, and preferably for 3 more years till 2023 in anticipation of mass-produced low-cost EVs. Based on my very rough estimate, the FRT waived per new EV purchased is about 1% of the total economic loss due to air pollution per day. Hong Kong is the ‘Beacon City for electric vehicles’ and this is as much a Hong Kong pride as well as our country’s pride. Denmark’s unfortunate end in their EV development is a lesson for any countries or cities to learn.
3.           ‘Fund’ FRT waiver for EVs in the future, especially with total ICEV ban in mind, the Government should consider increasing FRT and license renewal fee for ICEVs and hybrids – eg. Singapore’s tax for general car ownership is at least 3 times that of Hong Kong. This way, Hong Kong can see a lowering of the ICEVs population (currently at 99.25%) and an increasing percentage of EV ownership (currently at 0.75%). The total number of vehicles on the road
4.           Consider offering toll-free tunnels and roads for EVs like Norway while increasing such toll fees for ICEVs as an additional incentive for ICEV owners to switch to owning EVs. Such incentive can be facilitated using existing Autotoll technology plus the submission of a copy of an electric vehicle registration document.
5.           Incentivise power companies to invest in renewable energies, particularly tidal energy. Adding less carbon-intensive natural gas to the fuel mix is good, but as good as Singapore of which natural gas constituted about 95% of fuel mix in 2015they are adding solar (45.8MWac) into their grid.
6.           Make private installation of solar and wind power generating facilities at private homes easier and less susceptible to (Building Department) accusations for changing the external appearance of the building’s structure.
I thank the Government for decades of continuous support for cleaning up the city’s serious air pollution and making our beloved Hong Kong into a ‘beacon city for electric vehicles’. Hong Kong has lost too many Number 1s through the years and hopefully we can still retain this one to make our country proud!
Locky Law
Hong Kong Permanent Resident