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Advisory Council on the Environment

 

Confirmed Minutes of the 63rd Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 28 June 1999 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Clement CHEN
Mr. Barrie COOK
Professor Peter HILLS
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Professor LAM Kin-che
Mr. Edwin Lau
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary) (PAS(E)3, PELB)


Absent with Apologies:

Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Miss Ann CHIANG
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
The Hon. Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Mr. Tan Teng Huat

 

In Attendance:
 
Mr. Gordon SIU Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (SPEL)
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (AD/TS, Plan D)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD)
Mr. Eric JOHNSON Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (for Agenda Items 4 to 6 only) (PAS, ESB)
Miss Agnes Kwan Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)1 (for Agenda Item 6 only)
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)4
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (PELB)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4:
 
Mr. Eric Walker Research Co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth (FoE) (RC, FoE)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5:
 
Mr. Patrick Lei Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy and Services), EPD (PEPO/WS, EPD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 6 :
 
Mr. S M Li Assistant Commissioner for Transport (Technical Services) (AC/TS, TD)
Mr. Francis Ho Assistant Secretary for Transport (AS, TB)
Mr. W C Mok Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Motor Vehicle Emission Group), EPD (PEPO/MV, EPD)

*********************

 

  Action

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of 62nd Meeting held on 31 May 1999

The minutes of the 62nd meeting were confirmed without amendment.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 4 : Visit to the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong

2.Members noted that the Secretariat had sounded out the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong on the proposed visit and was waiting for the latter's response.
 

Para. 14 : USD's annual expenditure on their greening programmes

3.Members noted that in 1999/2000, the Provisional Urban Council had allocated $1.75M on education programmes, $1.58M on community involvement programmes, $2.78M on tree planting and preservation programmes, $0.05M on site search for street trees, $0.9M on greening of vacant district open spaces and $3M on publicity.
 

Para. 16 : Invitation to RSD to brief Members on their greening programme

4.Members noted that RSD's presentation on their greening programme and CED's presentation on slope stabilization works would both take place on 19 July 1999.
 

 

5.The Chairman said he understood that each Provisional District Board (DB) would be given a certain amount of money every year for carrying out minor environmental improvement works in their respective districts, such as path cutting. He said that it would be interesting to know how the money was being spent, whether the full allocations were spent and whether there was scope for each DB to earmark a certain portion of the money for tree planting, maintenance and other greening projects in their districts. The Secretariat undertook to find out more about the fund from the Home Affairs Department.

  The Secretariat


Para. 28 : Proposals for wider use of e-mail and other electronic means for distribution of papers and reports

6.Members noted that the Secretariat was updating its record of Members' e-mail addresses and would make wider use of e-mail on its daily correspondence with Members. They also noted that the EIA Subcommittee Secretariat would follow up with EPD on the proposal for distributing EIA reports in CD-ROM.

 


Para 30 : Information about HKPC's seminar on environmental reporting and the energy partnership programme

7.Members noted that PELB had distributed HKPC's leaflets on the Seminar on Environmental Reporting and the Energy Partnership Programme respectively to all Green Managers in government bureaux/departments. A Member said that the Seminar on Environmental Reporting was postponed to September 1999, due to poor responses.
 

 

Para. 38 : Follow up actions on "Lantau North-South Link"

8.Members noted that the visit to the Tung Chung Road had taken place on 20 June 1999. A Member said that he was concerned about the ecological impact of the proposed Lantau North-South road link to the surrounding environment. Another Member was concerned that the proposed road link would destroy the natural landscape and ecology of the Tai Ho Valley, which was probably the most important remaining natural heritage site in Hong Kong. The Chairman said that the amount of traffic that would be using the new road link did not justify the construction of such an expensive road, unless the government had in mind major development plans for South Lantau which would lead to a drastic increase in traffic flow. He hoped that the future development intention for Lantau would become clearer in August when the Territory Development Department would present the findings of the study entitled "Remaining Development in Tung Chung and Tai Ho" to this Council.

9.Members further noted that the EIA Subcommittee would consider the feasibility study report regarding the widening of the Tung Chung Road, and the alignment option assessment report and the Initial Assessment Report for the proposed Lantau North-south Link on 5 July.

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 44th EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 21/99)

10.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the EIA Subcommittee had considered the EIA report entitled Tsuen Wan Bay Further Reclamation - Tang Lung Chau Dangerous Goods Anchorage at its meeting on 7 June 1999 and recommended that the report be endorsed without conditions. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the report without conditions.

Agenda Item 4 : FoE's presentation on "Restructuring Hong Kong's Power Sector and Maintaining Environmental Priorities"
(ACE Paper 22/99)

11.The Chairman welcomed RC, FoE and PAS, ESB to the meeting. Before the presentation, a Member told Members that the presentation to the LegCo Panel on Economic Services, which was originally scheduled for the morning of 28 June, had been postponed. RC, FoE briefed Members on the paper.
 

12.In response to the Chairman's query, RC, FoE said that in Hong Kong's context, the total amount of forest areas that would be required to absorb or stabilize the amount of CO2 emitted as a result of electricity generation could serve as an indicator of the sustainability of our energy policy. He said that the OECD countries looked at the issue in terms of the total amount of materials that were used to generate electricity and provide other services. As a result too much emphasis had been placed on how to "de-materialize" their societies. He said that another way of looking at the issue was for the power companies to consider how to deliver the right services with the minimum energy inputs.
 

13.A Member asked what would be the most suitable renewable energy for Hong Kong. RC, FoE said that since most of the renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind, was intermittent in nature, extensive storage facilities would be required to ensure their uninterrupted supply. Given the scarcity of land in Hong Kong, it was not suitable to develop renewable energy which required huge storage facilities. As fuel cells did not occupy a lot of land, they were suitable for development in Hong Kong. So was the recovery of waste heat from buildings for internal cooling. He added that an integrated approach should be adopted by Hong Kong in pursuit of renewable energy, through collaboration with Southern China. He remarked that the European Union and the USA had respectively targeted to generate 12% and 7.5% of their total energy production from renewable energy by 2010. Unless Hong Kong could react quickly, it would still be 100% dependent on fossil fuel by that time.
 

14.In response to the Chairman's query, RC, RoE said that people considered renewable energy more expensive than conventional energy because they had not taken into account the full costs associated with the production of conventional energy in making the comparison. He said that if all the externalities associated with the production of conventional energy, such as the costs to the environment, were taken into account, they would come up with different conclusions. He said that promoting the advantage of renewable energy would be the imminent task for the proposed energy board.
 

15.A Member cautioned about the danger of making like-to-like comparison between Hong Kong and other places in developing renewable energy, since there were differences among them in terms of economic and social structures and the institutional arrangements of their respective power sector. Since there were two power companies in Hong Kong that were owned and run by private sector and that physical infrastructures such as power plants constituted a major proportion of their investment, that Member said it was unrealistic to rely upon the power companies to take initiatives to develop renewable energy in the near future. Moreover, the relatively low electricity price in Hong Kong would dampen any initiatives to save energy by the public. Members noted from that Member that between late 1980s and 1990s, the electricity price in Hong Kong had dropped by 40% in real terms and the scarcity of energy was simply not a concern within the community. As a result, electricity consumption had not decreased over the decade in spite of the relocation of the manufacturing industry away from Hong Kong. That Member further commented that the Mainland would not be keen to develop renewable energy in the short term since they were able to generate power from fossil fuel cheaply and the investment had already been made.
 

16.A Member remarked that small communities would benefit most from renewable energy. Since Hong Kong was a big city, there would not be too many choices for it regarding renewable energy. One possibility was the use of biomass. RC, FoE said that FoE had not examined the use of biomass in Hong Kong in detail. However, his initial thinking was that burning waste was not an efficient process to generate energy. Besides, the amount of energy that could be generated from the amount of biomass available in Hong Kong would be rather limited.
 

17.A Member said that the existing way that mankind made use of energy was not conducive to sustainable development at all. This was reflected by the fact that the overall fossil fuel reserve on earth would only be able to sustain human activities for a few more hundred years'. He said that while the long term solution was the development of innovative sources of energy, the importance of energy saving in the short term should not be ignored. He said that there were indeed plenty of room for the local community to save energy.
 

18.In response to DEP's query, RC, FoE said that as Hong Kong has a long coastal line, it could benefit from wind-driven power. He said that if Hong Kong was to make use of wind-driven turbines alone to generate electricity, about 10,000 turbines would be required. DEP remarked that land alone would be a major problem since Hong Kong did not have adequate space, on land or in the sea, to accommodate those turbines. RC, FoE said that while it would be expensive to develop renewable energy at first, it was something worth pursuing. He said that if Hong Kong did not start working on this area, it would suffer from any sanctions which the international communities would in future impose on places that were wholly dependent on fossil fuel.
 

 
19.PAS, ESB said that ESB shared FoE's vision of a more sustainable energy future, but the proposals in FoE's presentation would entail fundamental changes and could not be adopted without a lot of further study. FoE had recently presented similar proposals to the Energy Advisory Committee. The future structure of the power sector, including the long term prospects for supply of power from southern China was currently being examined in a study of interconnection and competition in the electricity supply sector and this was due for completion very soon. The report would be published for public comments and an environmental perspective from ACE would be welcome. ESB was also considering the possibility of commissioning a study of the potential for renewable energy in Hong Kong.
 








ESB
20.A Member said that the European countries managed to make significant progress in developing renewable energy in the past because they had the full support of the public in pursuing environmental objectives. He said that similar support had to be cultivated in Hong Kong in order to start the change.
 

21.A Member said that Hong Kong's economy was too small to influence the world's institutional arrangement on power generation and oil price. Also, he had reservations on the practicality of developing renewable energy in Hong Kong and applying them on a territory-wide basis. He however believed that Hong Kong could contribute a lot more in terms of energy saving, through supply and demand side management. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to achieve energy saving targets.
 

22.A Member said that FoE would start a pilot study to look at the potential of utilizing wind to generate power in Hong Kong. Besides, FoE would establish an education centre to demonstrate the possibility of various renewable energy to the people of Hong Kong. He said that recent exchanges with the Mainland officials had indicated that the Mainland was keen to develop renewable energy, with various research projects being carried out by their laboratories.
 

 
23.A Member informed Members that the Conservancy Association had set up a windmill in a youth camp on Lamma Island. The windmill was designed and constructed by local university students for pumping water and irrigation, and was open to the public. He said that he would be pleased to arrange a visit to the windmill for Members.
 



Secretariat/CA
24.A Member urged the Administration to provide funding support to NGOs and local higher education institutions for carrying out research projects on renewable energy in Hong Kong.
 

25.The Chairman thanked RC, FoE for the presentation. He urged the Administration to look at the possibility of developing renewable energy that was suitable for Hong Kong in the long term and take proactive measures in the short term to reduce energy consumption.
 







ESB

Agenda Item 5 : Declaration of North Western Supplementary Water Control Zone and Second Southern Supplementary Water Control Zone
(ACE Paper 23/99)

 

 
26.The Chairman welcomed PEPO/WS, EPD to the meeting. PAS(E)3, PELB and PEPO/WS, EPD briefed Members on the proposal.

27.In response to the Chairman's query, PEPO/WS, EPD said that EPD would update the information booklets on water control zones (WCZs) to cover these two supplementary WCZs. The updated booklets would be available for collection at the District Offices. Moreover, staff of EPD's Local Control Office (Urban West) would advise potential dischargers of the declaration of the two supplementary WCZs, and the procedures for applying for discharge licences.
 

28.Noting that the water quality of the Pearl River Estuary would have an impact on the water quality of areas to be covered under the two supplementary WCZs, a Member asked how EPD could ensure that the WQOs, particularly those on nutrient levels, could be met. PEPO/WS, PELB said that EPD had been co-operating closely with the Guangdong authorities through the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group to improve the water quality of the Pearl River Estuary. He said that it was EPD's long term objective to ensure that the WQOs of the two supplementary WCZs would be met.
 

29.A Member asked why there were only two months between the First and Second Appointed Days of the two supplementary WCZs whereas there used to be at least a six months' interval between these two dates when the existing WCZs were being declared. PEPO/WS, EPD said that the Tai O Sewage Treatment Works was the only existing facilities within the two supplementary WCZs which produced discharges and was already operating in accordance with the standards stipulated by EPD, it would not take a long time for EPD to issue a licence to DSD.
 

30.Members endorsed the proposals for declaring the North Western Supplementary Water Control Zone and Second Southern Supplementary Water Control Zone, and establishing WQOs for them.
 

 

Agenda Item 6 : Air Quality Improvement Programme
(ACE Paper 24/99)

 

31.The Chairman welcomed AC/TS, TD, AS, TB and PEPO/MV, EPD to the meeting. DS(E), PELB briefed Members on the initiatives taken by the Administration in tackling the air pollution problem in Hong Kong.
 

32.The Chairman asked how the effectiveness of the pedestrianization schemes could be measured. PEPO/MV, EPD said that EPD would carry out air quality monitoring in areas where pedestrianization would take place, both before and after the implementation of the scheme. They would also keep a watchful eye on public's reaction towards the scheme. A Member said that since the volume of traffic in areas surrounding the pedestrianized areas would likely increase as a result of the scheme, EPD should also monitor the air quality of those areas before and after the implementation of the scheme to assess the impact of scheme to the air quality of the neighbouring areas.
 

33.In response to the Chairman's query, PEPO/MV, EPD said that the introduction of Euro II emission standard for newly-registered vehicles would reduce their respirable suspended particulate (RSP) emission by 80% whereas the introduction of low-cost trap and diesel-catalyst for existing vehicles would reduce their RSP emission to 20 and 50% respectively. Moreover, the implementation of the new dynamometer test could screen out vehicles with defective emission parts. PEPO/MV, EPD pointed out that the aforementioned emission control measures would significantly reduce the emissions from individual motor vehicles but their overall effects on the air quality would also depend on the growth in traffic.
 

34.The Chairman asked whether specific targets would be set by the Administration regarding air quality in Hong Kong. DEP said that measurable and quantifiable targets would be set as far as possible. He said that since the air quality in Hong Kong was also affected by cross boundary pollution which was beyond EPD's control, EPD had been co-operating with the Mainland in tackling environmental issues of mutual concern. Members noted that a joint study was being carried out between EPD and the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong to identify the major sources of air pollution in the Pearl River Delta Region and recommend mitigation measures.
 

35.A Member said that the use of cleaner fuel, such as "City Diesel", would help reduce the overall RSP emission from vehicles. He asked whether the Administration had started discussion with the oil companies about the possible introduction of "City Diesel" into Hong Kong. Also, he expressed concern about the illicit use of diesel oil in Hong Kong and urged the Administration to take enforcement actions against that. DEP said that EPD had been exploring with the local oil companies the possibility of introducing "City Diesel" into Hong Kong. The Chairman said that in spite of the bus companies showing great interest in "City Diesel", the oil companies were not interested at all because it would mean the early writing off of much of their existing refining facilities which were incompatible with "City Diesel" technology. DS(E), PELB said that the Administration would be changing the specifications for industrial diesel so that it would not be possible to use it in vehicles. He remarked that it would be more effective to reduce the total amount of RSP emissions from vehicles through replacement of old vehicles than using cleaner fuels.
 

36.Noting that EPD had earlier projected that the air quality in Hong Kong would be worsened by 50% by 2011, a Member asked whether the projection had already taken into account the various improvement measures to be taken. Also, he asked whether Hong Kong would consider formulating its own set of air quality standards which would reflect Hong Kong's unique environment. PEPO/MV, PELB said that as the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3), which was being commissioned by the Transport Department, would look into the future traffic growth in Hong Kong, it would provide useful basis for assessing the level of RSP emissions from vehicles. Moreover, the CTS-3 would also address the air quality issues in future years. On the proposal that Hong Kong should establish its own air quality objectives, DEP said that the existing AQOs adopted by EPD was modelled after that promulgated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Being health-related indicators, WHO's AQOs could be applied universally to all places, since it was unlikely that the effect of air pollution on health would differ among people of different nationalities. Therefore, it served no practical purposes for Hong Kong to establish its own set of AQOs, which would still have to be modelled after WHO's indicators. Members noted that a committee made up of local health and medical experts had been set up by EPD to advise them on the latest developments regarding AQOs in other countries and make recommendations for updating Hong Kong's AQOs to take into account international developments.
 

37.A Member said that, from the PR point of view, it would be worthwhile if the Administration would take the initiative to gradually replace its vehicle fleet with LPG vehicles. DEP said that there were about 1000 pre-Euro I diesel vehicles within the government fleet whereas the rest were petrol vehicles. The government already had plans to replace those pre-Euro I diesel vehicles with Euro II or higher standard vehicles within three years. However, as there would not be any significant differences between petrol and LPG vehicles in environmental terms and the number of LPG refilling stations would not be adequate to serve more LPG-vehicles than the targeted number of taxis and minibuses in the short term, the government did not intend to replace its petrol vehicles with LPG ones at this stage. SPEL added that the Administration had not ruled out the possibility of replacing more government vehicles with LPG vehicles at a later stage. However, the most important issues to be resolved at this stage was the provision of adequate LPG petrol re-filling stations for the taxi fleet.
 

38.A Member asked to what extent CTS-3 would attach importance to environmental objectives and consideration in formulating future transport policy. AS, TB said that the CTS-3 would look at how the transport policy could complement environmental policy through better co-ordination of different transport modes, promotion of the park-and-ride concept and better traffic demand management. He said that there would be a section on environmental consideration in the CTS-3 report.
 

39.A Member said that the layout of a district and the density and heights of the buildings would affect the air quality there, particularly the street level air quality. Given the importance of town planning to air quality, he opined that it was high time that the Administration reviewed the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines to reflect practical needs.
 

40.A Member opined that, when reviewing its transport policy, the Administration should focus on managing traffic demand, examining the possibility of alternative fuels and re-prioritizing different transport modes so that more environmentally-friendly mode of transport (e.g. railway) would be accorded higher priority.
 

41.A Member said that the Administration should consider using three-dimensional measurements in measuring air quality so that changes in air quality from one district to another would be known. PEPO/MV, EPD said that the Administration had carried out pilot test making use of three-dimensional measurement and the results were more or less the same as that of point-measurement. He said that as Hong Kong was a small place, it did not make much difference regarding which measurement methods to adopt. He assured Members that EPD would keep in view the state-of-the-art technology and would introduce those which were applicable to Hong Kong, so as to enhance Hong Kong's monitoring capability.
 

42.A Member commended the Administration for its efforts in abating the air pollution problem. He said that apart from taking measures to reduce air pollution, efforts should also be taken to enhance public's awareness on environmental matters through education and publicity in the long term.
 

43.SPEL said that the paper had only highlighted some of the imminent actions that the Administration would take in tackling the air pollution problems in Hong Kong. He said that in the long run, the government had to further demonstrate to the public, through concrete actions and results, its determination and ability to resolve the air pollution problems. He said that a few successes would be needed to restore public's confidence in the government in tackling air pollution problems, such as a reduction in the number of occasions when the air quality of Hong Kong would be adversely affected by the high level of photochemical smog which was blown from southern China during the winter season, and the design of a new town which could effectively separate pedestrians from the traffic. He also emphasized the importance of cultivating a proper environmental culture among the media.
 

44.A Member opined that all government bureaux/departments should join hands in tackling the air pollution problems in Hong Kong. DS(E), PELB said that not only the government but also the whole community had to make concerted efforts to improve the air quality of Hong Kong. That's why the "Clean Air for Hong Kong" booklet, which set out the contributions that the Administration, the private sector and each individual had to make in improving the air quality in Hong Kong, was widely distributed to members of the community. SPEL said that favourable changes in the attitudes of some sectors towards environmental matters were already being felt. For example, the bus companies and the taxi trade were now more receptive and co-operative in taking measures to reduce pollution. Members noted that the Town Planning Board had recently turned down an application for building a refuse transfer station on a site in the heart of Causeway Bay currently being a petrol filling station.
 

45.Noting that government's efforts in tackling environmental problems normally did not attract the attention of the local media, the Chairman said that the Administration should map out more viable PR strategies. DEP agreed and said that, if necessary, EPD would employ PR firms to develop a robust and effective PR strategy.
 

 

46.The Chairman commended the Administration for the efforts it had taken in the past few months to tackle the air quality problems. He requested the Administration to report progress in six month's time.
 


PELB
Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1999

47.Members noted the tentative schedule of work.
 

ISO14000
 

48.A Member informed Members that he attended a forum on ISO 14000 which was organised by the State Environmental Protection Agency in Beijing earlier. The impression he got from the Forum was that the Central Government was keen on promoting ISO14000. He said that about 120 Mainland companies, most of them being joint venture companies, had certified for ISO14000 whereas in Hong Kong only about 38 companies had been certified. He said that the HKSAR Government should promote this certification scheme in Hong Kong.
 

49.A Member supplemented that most of the companies which had obtained the certification in the Mainland were electronic companies. The certificate was useful to them in exploring the international market and exporting their products. He said that the Hong Kong Productivity Council had been promoting the certification scheme in the commercial sector in Hong Kong for years. The Chairman remarked that since the housing development projects carried out by the Housing Authority accounted for about 3% of the local GDP, they could give the certification a boost if they made it a requirement for all its contractors to obtain the ISO 14000 certification.
 

 
Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting

50.The next meeting was scheduled for 19 July 1999.

 

 

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
July 1999


 

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