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Dr Lin Feng

It is acknowledged that there are two sources of air pollution in Hong Kong: local and external (Pearl River Delta), in which the latter being the primary source. Hong Kong’s air pollution is a regional issue rather than a local issue. The resolution of this issue is further complicated by the fact that Hong Kong has a distinct legal system from the Mainland, and the legislation governing air pollution control is different between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The HKSAR Government has signed agreements with Guangdong Province on reduction of air pollutants, but these agreements are not enforceable.

This project first conducts a thorough review of existing mechanisms on cross-border air pollution control to identify their defects, and argues that lack of a legal mechanism to regulate trans-regional affairs between Hong Kong SAR and other parts of China, the small number of polluters in pool of the existing emission trading system (ETS), voluntariness of the polluters to join the ETS, the exclusion of Macau, and the lack of a dispute resolution mechanism are the core reasons why the existing ETS between Hong Kong and Guangdong failed to work.

The project then uses various research methodologies such as literature review, case study, interview, and comparative study to find a solution to cross-border pollution problem. Specifically speaking, Jiangsu Province has been chosen as a case to discuss the lessons to be learned from China’s pilot ETS. A comparative study has been conducted of other leading ETS regimes in the world, namely the US Acid Rain Programme, and European ETS this is to identify the fundamental mechanisms an ETS must possess in order to be effective and also to analyze the practical difficulties and shortcomings encountered by them.



Through comparative study and case study, this research comes to the view that a successful ETS must contain three main mechanisms, including a firm overall cap, a sustainable emissions allowance market, and robust monitoring and enforcement institutions capable of ensuring compliance. By applying such findings to address cross-border air pollution problem between Hong Kong and the Mainland under the unique constitutional matrix of one country, two systems, this research concludes by making three specific proposals. First, a super-national panel must be established and authorized to harmonize and oversee the cap-fixing, market maintenance, compliance monitoring, and enforcement functions across three jurisdictions, i.e. Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and mainland China. Such an environmental panel would help to further integrate the three legal systems by serving as a portal through which ongoing implementation efforts can be directly undertaken. Second, a permanent trans-boundary forum should be established to ensure flexibility and ongoing cooperation among the three jurisdictions as implementation proceeds. Third, multi-party arbitration mechanism should be established and used in the event of irreconcilable or unforeseen legal differences between the three systems.

If all three proposals above could be made to co-exist and prosper within a successful public law framework, the resulting intercourse would not only provide a feasible solution to the cross-border air pollution problem between Hong Kong SAR and the Mainland, but also provide a model of international environmental cooperation to the world.

One sample publication out of the project

Dr Lin Feng
School of Law
City University of Hong Kong