Hong Kong wasn’t in the news this week for having off-the-chart air pollution, but that doesn’t mean everyone should go ripping off their air pollution masks. The city has its own air pollution problems — it’s the cause of more than 3,000 premature deaths, for one — but the city announced it’s taking one, expensive step toward fighting smog.
Hong Kong’s leader Leung Chun-ying said today that the city plans to offer about $1.3 billion to subsidize the replacement of old diesel-powered vehicles. In Chun-ying’s proposal, the city will cut particulates emissions by 80 percent and nitrogen oxides by 30 percent and set a lifespan limit for new diesel commercial vehicles at 15 years.
But if you think $1.3 billion is a high price to pay, consider this: air pollution isn’t just having an impact on the city’s health, it also impacts its economic competitiveness. Medical bills and lost productivity from air pollution alone top an estimated $5 billion per year. And according to BBC, three out of four companies surveyed said that poor air quality makes it challenging to attract and retain foreign employees. Plus, about 25 percent of Hong Kong residents say they are considering moving because of the poor air quality.
The latest proposal from Chun-ying is offering three times more money than previous leaders to remove 80,000 high polluting vehicles from the streets. But will this make a big enough impact to clear the air and repair its hazy reputation?