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 January 2012, the government announced the decision to update the AQOs with effect from early 2014 subject to the passage of the relevant legislation.

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power to promulgate AQOs in a technical memorandum, as presently provided for under section 7 of the APCO, will be repealed.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.