While the rationale for basing policy-decision on evidence seems unobjectionable, evidence-based policy making is still far from being a reality across many key policy areas. On the one hand, tremendous amount of scientific research, with significant potential policy impacts in informing and enlightening existing practices and policy choices, has been generated over time. On the other hand, policy-making in many key policy areas continues to be dominated by ideology, gut feeling, passion, and blind optimism.
The case of controlling ship emissions in Pearl River Delta (PRD) demonstrates several key ingredients for putting evidence-based policy making into practice policy entrepreneurship, effective partnership among key stakeholders, and the role of science in policy-making. Little attention was paid to ship emissions in Hong Kong until 2006 when the first marine emissions-related background study was conducted by Civic Exchange. Scientific studies conducted by environmental scientists at HKUST and other academic institutions find that ships are the number one emission source in Hong Kong. In the following decade, policy-makers, government officials, scientists and civil society leaders have worked together to tackle the ship emissions in PRD through governance and policy innovations, such as Fair Winds Charter, the world's 1st industry-led voluntary fuel switching initiative, and the Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation.