The Air Pollution Control (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 was passed by the Legislative Council on 10 July 2013 and will come into operation on 1 January 2014.

The Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap. 311) (APCO) makes provision for abating, prohibiting and controlling pollution of the atmosphere. Under the APCO, "air pollution" means "an emission of air pollutant which either alone or with another emission of air pollutant … prejudicial to health". In the APCO, the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) – (i.e., concentration limits of certain air pollutants1) are stipulated as the air quality that should be achieved and maintained in order to promote the conservation and best use of air in air control zones in the public interest. The AQOs also serve as a benchmark for assessing the air quality impact of specified processes2 under the APCO and of designated projects3 under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499) (EIAO).

The current AQOs have been in effect since 1987 and have been set out in an existing technical memorandum issued under section 7(1A) of the APCO since 1994 (TM). The World Health Organisation released a set of new AQOs in 2006. In response, the government commissioned a consultancy study in 2007 to review the AQOs and develop a long-term air quality management strategy. In 2009, the government consulted the public on the recommendations arising therefrom. In early 2012, the government declared its decision to update the AOQs with effect from early 2014 subject to the enactment of the relevant law.

With the passage of the Amendment Ordinance as stated above, the following changes will be implemented as of 1 January 2014:

  • An updated set of AQOs, set out in Schedule 5 to the APCO, will replace the current set of AQOs.
  • The Secretary for the Environment (Secretary) must periodically review the updated AQOs at least once every 5 years and submit a report of the review to the Advisory Council on the Environment.
  • The Secretary's power to promulgate AQOs in a technical memorandum, as presently provided for under section 7 of the APCO, will be repealed.
  • A transitional period to provide for the continued application of the current AQOs for applications submitted under the EIAO for variations of the conditions in environmental permits4 (EP) issued before 1 January 2014, where the application is made before 1 January 2017.

Given the above, the updated AQOs will be used as the basis for air quality impact assessment of projects or processes under the APCO and the EIAO, with the above transitional arrangements for designated projects with EPs granted under the EIAO being put in place.

1Sulphur dioxide, suspended particles in air with prescribed nominal aerodynamic diameters, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and lead

2Processes specified in Schedule 1 to APCO, including cement works, electricity works, gas works, incinerators, petrochemical works, petroleum works, glass works, etc as more particularly prescribed therein.

3Includes (i) airport and port facilities, (ii) reclamation, hydraulic and marine facilities, dredging and dumping, (iii) sewage collection, treatment, disposal and reuse, (iv) waterways and drainage works, (v) industrial activities, (vi) residential and other developments, and (vii) engineering feasibility study of urban development and redevelopment projects, as more particularly described in Schedules 2 and 3 to the EIAO

4Under the EIAO, a person shall not construct or operate or decommission a prescribed designated project without an EP for the project, which may be granted with conditions attached. The conditions may be varied by an application made to the Director of Environmental Protection (“DEP”). Upon such an application, the DEP may require an EIA report to be submitted in relation to the application, or amend the EP without calling for the report if certain conditions are satisfied. In both cases, the project which is the subject of the application is required to comply with the technical memorandum published under the EIAO, a criterion of which is to meet the AQOs in the TM.

Reference: Legislative Council Bill on this legislation including Legco Brief, papers, reports, submissions received etc.