Motion on “Promoting the Development of Green Transport” (2023.01.11)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. I thank Ir CHAN Siu-hung for proposing today’s motion. Green transport development is the general trend. In 2021, the Government published such strategies as the Hong Kong Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles (“EVs”), setting the target of ceasing new registration of fuel-propelled cars by 2035, with a view to attaining zero vehicular emissions by 2050. The Government has already mapped out an ambitious plan. Now it remains to be seen whether the Government can achieve it as scheduled.

Speaking of air pollution, I remember that some 10 years ago, the roadside air quality in Hong Kong was so bad that many foreigners were reluctant to come to work in Hong Kong. Back then, when I stood for the Legislative Council election, one of my primary tasks was to urge the Government to improve the pollution situation. I was then a member of the Panel on Environmental Affairs. At that time the Government had done a lot of work, including cooperating with the Guangdong Province to monitor the air quality and introducing schemes for liquefied petroleum gas taxis and diesel vehicles of environmentally friendly Euro models, resulting in significant improvement in the pollution situation. As at 2020, various kinds of roadside pollutants were substantially reduced by 40% to 50% over those of 10 years ago. Hence, endeavour will definitely bear fruit.

Driven by the international trend, Hong Kong has indeed seen an increasing number of EVs in recent years. At the beginning of last year, 45% of newly registered private cars were EVs. The situation seems quite satisfactory. However, a review of the overall figures shows that there are currently about 44 700 EVs, accounting for only 4.9% of the total number of vehicles. Among them, there are only 3 800 electric commercial vehicles. Hong Kong has been promoting the development of EVs for more than a decade. Judging from the figures, the result cannot be considered satisfactory.

As a matter of fact, the Government has already done a lot of work to promote the development of EVs, including tax concessions, the “one-for-one replacement” scheme and the EV-charging at Home Subsidy Scheme. Moreover, it is much cheaper for private cars to run on electricity than on fuel. There should be sufficient incentives, but in reality, that is not the case. The main reason is that there are still not enough chargers and charging is relatively troublesome.

To change this situation, the Steering Committee on the Promotion of Electric Vehicles led by Financial Secretary Paul CHAN has resolutely launched the EV-charging at Home Subsidy Scheme, committing $3.5 billion to subsidize 700 car parks in private housing estates across the territory to install charging facilities in a total of about 140 000 parking spaces, accounting for half of the parking spaces in Hong Kong. The scheme has already started and will run until 2028. This is indeed an important step. With chargers available in the housing estates, there will be no need to spend time waiting for public charging stations. This will incentivize vehicle owners to switch to EVs and resolve the present major problem of having difficulties in charging EVs.

At present, the greatest difficulty still lies in commercial vehicles. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the Government will formulate a specific strategy in 2025. The difficulties for commercial vehicles are the high prices of EVs, high wear and tear, insufficient driving range, lack of charging spaces, etc. If, for the sake of achieving the target, operators are required to switch to EVs, the operating costs will rise sharply, thus leading to fare increases, and the Government may get involved by providing enormous amounts of subsidies. Despite this, the Government has set the target of introducing 3 000 electric taxis and 700 electric buses by 2027.

In my opinion, the success or otherwise of promoting the development of EVs certainly depends mainly on the Government’s determination. In the past decade, Hong Kong took the lead in promoting the development of EVs, but the progress turned out to be slow. Apart from external factors, the main reason was that the Government was not determined back then. The Government did not even convert its own fleet to EVs. We can imagine how determined it was. In contrast, the Mainland had a late start in the development of EVs when compared to Europe and the United States, but now, with its determination and courage to push forward the policy, it has overtaken all others and become the country with the fastest development of EVs in the world. In fact, the promotion of the development of EVs is certainly fraught with difficulties. The new-term Government has got to exert itself to build a strong administration. It should follow the example of the country’s determination and courage to overcome all kinds of difficulties and obstacles.

Thank you, President.

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