Does Hong Kong want to be a clean, green city? Cutting the electric vehicle tax waiver is not a smart move

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Transforming Hong Kong into an environmentally friendly city with blue skies and clean streets is a vision everyone can share. We already have one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, crowned by undulating hills that rise above a dynamic and connected urban space.

Yet Hong Kong continues to tolerate streets and air choked by pollution, even though we have the knowledge and means to establish ourselves as an innovation hub, incorporating energy efficiency with cutting edge forms of recycling, transport and digital technology. This city’s advanced economy boasts a cash surplus and a globally aware, well-educated population. It has the bonus of being small, so getting from point to point is relatively easy.

Hong Kong also now has its champion for smart city development. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has demanded a shift in officials’ mindsets and made a strong push towards smart city initiatives.

But much remains to be done if Hong Kong is to take its rightful spot as an advanced, smart economy, including untangling major inconsistencies in recent policy and actions stymying progress and leaving the city trailing other urban centres. Hong Kong failed to make the list, published by the International Council on Clean Transportation this month, of 20 cities leading the transition to electric vehicles.

After almost two decades promoting EVs, the government in April abruptly changed tack, drastically reducing the first registration tax waiver on private EVs just as sales appeared to be gaining momentum. In September, just 13 EVs were registered as private cars, compared with 528 a year earlier, according to the latest figures from the Transport Department.

Such policy changes don’t just have a dampening effect on consumer behaviour. The ramifications spread to the investment decisions of big corporations too. The rising trend in sales gave companies the confidence to make long-term financial commitments to support development and deployment of cleaner technology vehicles with battery, service and charging technologies.

Read more at SCMP