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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 79th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 30 October 2000 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP  
Miss Ann CHIANG  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Mr. Clement CHEN  
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN, JP  
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Professor Peter HILLS  
Professor LAM Kin-che (The EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
Mr. Edwin LAU  
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, JP  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Ms Iris TAM  
Mr. Plato YIP  
Mr. Donald TONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Miss Alex YAU



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary (B), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Thomas CHOW Deputy Secretary (C), EFB (DS(C)/EFB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (AD(TS)/PlanD)
Mr. C C LAY Acting Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Dr. Constance CHAN Assistant Director, Department of Health
Mr. Eric CHAN Acting Chief Information Officer, EFB
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (B), EFB
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, EPD
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), EFB




In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Ms. Annie CHOI Principal Assistant Secretary (B)2, EFB (PAS(B)2/EFB)
Mr. David WONG Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Corporate Services), EPD (PEPO(CS)/EPD)

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The Chairman congratulated Prof. Anthony Hedley on receiving the Bronze Bauhinia Star award on 1 July 2000. He then welcomed Mr. Thomas Chow, Deputy Secretary for the Environment and Food, who would be regularly attending Council meetings.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 78th Meeting held on 19 September 2000

2. The Chairman informed Members that since SEF had no proposed amendments to the minutes of the 77th meeting, the minutes were confirmed.

3. As regards the minutes of the 78th meeting, Members noted a Member's proposed amendments to para. 49. As Members had no further amendments, the minutes were confirmed subject to that Member's amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters ArisingPara. 23 : Review of operation of EIA Subcommittee

4. The Chairman suggested going through the proposal items one by one. Members agreed.

Submission schedule

5. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the Subcommittee was currently not able to schedule the submission of EIA reports and ended up with a highly fluctuated amount of workload from month to month. DEPexplained that under the EIA Ordinance EPD had no control over the timing of submission of reports by project proponents.

 
Action
6. The Chairman suggested EPD encourage project proponents to spread out the submissions of EIA reports as much as possible. DEP said that EPD would relay the message to them although much would depend on their willingness to co-operate.

Uploading of minutes onto website

7. Members noted that the confirmed minutes of the EIA Subcommittee meetings had already been uploaded onto the EFB website.

Focus in ACE-EIASC papers

8. The Chairman hoped that the experience of EPD and the Subcommittee in vetting EIA reports could enable EPD to highlight the key issues which were of common concern to Members.

Subcommittee's early involvement in the EIA process

9. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the Subcommittee Members had agreed to take turn to vet project profiles and alert each other to comment on contentious projects within the specified period, with a view to providing early feedback to the proponents in preparing the EIA reports. With regard to the involvement in the planning stages of a project, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the Subcommittee had not yet exchanged views but he believed Members would welcome receiving information during the planning stages of a project. As far as involvement in different stages of EIA process was concerned, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman considered that the responsibility to ensure the standard of the EIA reports should rest with the proponent. It would further increase the workload of the Subcommittee if it were to guide the proponents through the EIA process. Besides, the Subcommittee should be detached from the report preparation process so as to remain impartial.

Consultation on draft study briefs

10. DEP clarified that at present the Subcommittee was not consulted on draft study briefs and it would be practically difficult to do so due to time constraint. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman appreciated the difficulty in meeting the statutory timeline. The Subcommittee would have to give this further thought but there might be merits for the Subcommittee to provide input on those projects which were likely to attract public attention. DEP suggested that as a first step, the Subcommittee could sound out EPD on individual controversial projects if necessary.

Strategic environmental assessment and planning studies

11. The Chairman encouraged Members to take part in the discussions of strategic environmental assessment and planning studies.

Policies on energy, transport and conservation

12. DS(B)/EFB said that since transport and energy policies were under the purview of Transport Bureau and Economic Services Bureau respectively, it would not be suitable for EFB to comment on such policies. That said, EFB would continue to work closely with the two Bureaux by providing inputs on pollution impact assessments arising from transport and energy proposals/strategies..

13. The Chairman noted that Mr. Otto Poon had been appointed as the Chairman of the Energy Advisory Committee. He hoped that the Committee and this Council could have opportunities to discuss matters of mutual interest in the future.

Proponent to obtain approval of EIA report before gazettal

14. The Chairman said that Members could better understand the special arrangements of gazettal before approval of an EIA report if a paper setting out the justifications for fast-track could be circulated to them for reference beforehand in future.

15. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman suggested that fast-track projects should be avoided as much as possible. Gazettal of a project before completion of an EIA study would in a way pre-empt options examined. He stressed that environmental acceptability of all possible options should be examined before deciding on the most suitable one.

Standard of EIA reports

16. The Chairman appreciated that though the Council and DEP had the discretion to reject sub-standard EIA reports, resources used in carrying out the EIA studies concerned would be wasted if the reports were rejected. To ensure a certain level of quality of EIA reports, the Chairman wondered whether it was possible that consultancy agencies were selected based on standard guidelines and rate of remuneration approved by an independent body.

17. In response, SEF said that she had strong reservation on Government's involvement in the selection of consultants by project proponents and in monitoring the performance of the consultant. She said the current EIA process, which set out clearly the respective roles of DEP and this Council, worked well. DEP supplemented that in Hong Kong as in other countries, there were always standards of ethics and codes of practice for the professionals to observe. One had to rely on peer group pressure in the profession in regard to producing reports of acceptable quality. He agreed with SEF that this Council had the discretion to make recommendation to him and he could decide to reject EIA reports if they were of sub-standard quality. A Memebr concurred with SEF's and DEP's views.

18. A Member asked if devising a more independent process in the recruitment of consultants could help avoid potential conflict of interest. DEP said that if a consultant was selected through an open tender procedure based on requirements which a proponent could not control, the proponent would be more likely to object to the outcome of the consultancy study and deny responsibility.

19. A Member doubted whether members of the proposed independent body could avoid conflict of interest having regard to the wide range of development projects it would deal with. Another Member observed that members of the public mainly challenged the consultants' impartiality and the quality of EIA reports. He felt that this Council, being accountable to the public, should urge the Administration to explain the tender procedure. DS(B)/EFB said that the tender procedure was transparent and was available on government website.

20. A Member said that even though the consultants were well qualified in assessing the environmental impacts of a project, the tight time schedule given by the proponents very often adversely affected the quality of EIA reports. In response, DS(B)/EFB said that the onus should still rest with a proponent to ensure the quality of a report, and taking the responsibility away from a project proponent could not guarantee the quality. DEP supplemented that the problem pointed out by that Member would still exist even if an independent body selected the consultants because consultants would try to cut their expenses in any way they could to widen the profit margin.

21. A Member agreed that the Government and this Council should not interfere with the consultant selection process but could raise the standard of the EIA reports through other means like organizing seminars to brief consultants and proponents on the requirements and standards of an EIA report. DS(B)/EFB informed Members that the Hong Kong Construction Association would hold a seminar on EIA process in January 2001, with EPD as a sponsor.

22. The Chairman hoped that Members' concerns and opinion could be further deliberated in the seminar to be held in January 2001.

Ecological compensation measures

23. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that project proponent should adopt a precautionary approach and consider all reasonable practical measures if the project had significant irreversible impact on an area of high ecological value. The Chairman said that the proponent should also allow a greater provision for compensation measures having regard to the margin of error on the effectiveness of the compensation measures.

24. A Member pointed out that when it came to the implementation stage, compensation measures often failed to achieve the designed effect. That indeed appeared to be the problem of most compensation measures. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman echoed that Member's view and said that there must be ways to ensure that the proposed compensation measures would achieve its designed results.

25. DS(B)/EFB agreed that there was room to improve and much had to do with the division of responsibilities between contractors and sub-contractors. He said that the Construction Industry Review Committee was working on how responsibility could be effectively transferred from contractors to sub-contractors.

Disclosure of proponents' response to comments made by ACE and the public

26. The Chairman noted that DEP was not empowered to disclose such information whereas the information could go public during the appeal process. He felt that the Administration should pursue a more transparent mechanism. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman welcomed EPD's suggestion to consider the matter when reviewing the EIA Ordinance and/or Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process. He said that access to supplementary information could strengthen this Council's advisory role and might also relieve the pressure on DEP.

 
DEP
Summary of Environmental Monitoring & Audit (EM&A) reports

27. DEP undertook to study whether under the EIA Ordinance, EPD could require a proponent to prepare a summary as a condition of the environmental permit.

Independent checker to audit EM&A reports

28. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the quality of EM&A reports was a concern of the Subcommittee. He was glad that EPD would make it a requirement of the environmental permit of major projects that the permit holder should employ an Independent Environmental Checker to audit the EM&A programme.

Upload of EM&A reports onto the internet

29. DEP said that the web-based database on the environmental performance of project was by and large completed. The plan was to upload the data in the form of a summary for public reference.

Funds for ACE to seek expert and professional advice

30. In response to the Chairman's remarks, DS(B)/EFB said that resource was not the major concern for government in this issue. The real difficulty lay with the requirement to follow public procedures in selecting a consultant. Given that under the EIAO, the Council had to give advice to DEP within 60 days, it would be difficult for the Council to complete the consultant selection process and obtain the consultant's advice within the time limit. .

31. The Chairman suggested that a pool of qualified experts could be established for a period of time so that the Council could seek their advice as and when required. A Member said that it was not a question of whether the Council could offer sound and thorough advice by obtaining assistance from experts within the time limit, rather it was a question that it should be the proponent's responsibility to ensure the quality of an EIA report. That said, the Subcommittee had considered a number of options to enlarge its expertise, for example, by bringing in more Members to the Subcommittee. Another Member said that the environmental experts in EPD served to advise DEP on individual aspects of an EIA report. Attempts to seek advice from other experts might create confusion on EPD's role in this regard. He considered that the Council should be giving advice from a general perspective, rather than the perspective of an environmental expert.

32. A Member clarified that the Subcommittee's intention was to seek expert advice only on particular issues like railway engineering in the case of KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. He felt that although some experts would write to DEP to express their views, it would be more efficient if there was an established channel of communication between the experts and the Administration/this Council.

33. The Chairman concluded that the Council should further deliberate on this subject at other meetings. Funds for ACE to undertake overseas visits

34. The Chairman said that overseas visits would provide opportunities for Members to exchange views with the host countries on issues of mutual concern. While noting that it was not a common practice for the Government to provide funding for visits by members of advisory committees, the Chairman said that the Social Welfare Advisory Committee which was also under his chairmanship had made such overseas visits under public funds. He asked the Government to provide logistical assistance in organizing such visits even if it could not give funding support.

Central database on ecological baseline information

35. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, DS(B)/EFB said that part of the Susdev 21 Study was to gather ecological baseline information to form a central database for public reference. AD(TS)/PlanD clarified that the baseline information was still being finalized and would soon be available on the internet.

36. A Member said that he raised this issue at the EIA Subcommittee meeting with the idea of a multi-layer GIS map which would include air pollution index, ecological data, transport infrastructure information et al. to assist the EIA Subcommittee and parties concerned in the decision-making process.

37. A Member cautioned that the baseline data should be handled with extreme care so as not to defeat the purpose of conserving areas of high ecological value. He reminded Members that this was the reason why the locations of conservation hotspots identified in the biodiversity survey conducted by Prof. David Dudgeon were not disclosed to the public.

38. DS(B)/EFB said that Prof. Dudgeon's work had been made available to the Susdev 21 Study after having reached agreement on the level of details that could be accessible by the public. He said that the multi-layer information as proposed by that Member was exactly what the Government was aiming at and access to the database would be strictly controlled. Designation of "go" and "no-go" areas was a key subject in the review of conservation policy. Apart from that, the Bureau would also need to establish a mechanism to convince private landowners not to destroy the environment.

39. To conclude, the Chairman suggested that the ACE-EIA papers should specify whether the footprints of a project had impinged into "no-go" areas for consideration of the Subcommittee.

Para. 43 : Cross-boundary disposal of mud

40. Members noted that the Guangdong-Hong Kong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection was not the most appropriate forum for discussion on cross boundary mud disposal. The mainland Authority for mud dumping was the State Oceanic Administration. The Government was pursuing this issue with them.

Para. 52 : Site search for permanent aviation fuel receiving facilities for the airport and Decontamination of Kai Tak Airport North Apron

41. The Chairman reported that representatives from the Airport Authority would brief Members on the progress of the site search at the Council meeting in December. As regards the decontamination of Kai Tak Airport North Apron, the Secretariat sent a progress report prepared by the Territory Development Department to Members on 19 October 2000. Members did not have further queries on the report.

Agenda Item 3 : Policy Objective for Environment and Food Bureau

42. SEF said that copies of the Policy Objective booklet were sent to Members with a view to informing them of the progress achieved by the Bureau and its new initiatives in improving the environment. She hoped that by discussing the objectives and associated programmes at this meeting, she could bring Members more closely involved in the implementation programme. To maintain momentum, she said two Deputy Secretaries were now working on the environment. DS(C)/EFB was now responsible for the policies on air pollution, noise pollution and cross-boundary liaison on regional pollution problems whereas DS(B)/EFB was responsible for the policies on water pollution, waste disposal, EIA, conservation and energy efficiency.

43. DS(B)/EFB explained that the reason for not producing a green paper as pledged in the 1998 Policy Address was because the Chief Executive had decided not to wait for public consultation before taking steps to combat pollution announced in the 1999 Policy Address. He said that the focus of the policy areas under his purview (i.e. water pollution, waste disposal, EIA, conservation and energy efficiency.) in the coming year would be the identification of solutions to the problems, the issue of obtaining private land for conservation purpose; the way forward for the Strategic Sewage Disposal Strategy; practical programmes for reducing waste and promotion of domestic waste separation for recycling.

44. DS(C)/EFB briefed Members on the progress of the LPG Taxi Scheme and installation of particulate traps for pre-Euro light diesel vehicles. He said that with the disbursement of the taxi grants starting in August, more than 2,200 diesel taxis had been replaced by LPG ones. As the number of LPG filling stations would continue to increase (three dedicated LPG filling stations would commence service in October and two more in November), he expected the number of LPG taxis to increase more sharply in the coming months. The Government's target was to provide LPG filling capacity for 8,000 taxis by end of the year and 18,000 taxis (the whole taxi fleet) by end-2001. As regards installation of particulate traps, 1,000 vehicles had been retrofitted since September. At present there were 18 points providing a monthly capacity for 8,000 vehicles to install traps. To encourage owners of pre-Euro light diesel vehicles to retrofit their vehicles with the traps early, the Bureau would propose to Legislative Council (LegCo) to make the installation a prerequisite for annual licence renewal.

45. DS(C)/EFB sought Members' views on the proposal to stop importation of diesel taxis with effect from early next year. Under the existing Road Traffic Ordinance, the Commissioner for Transport could refuse to register a motor vehicle if it did not meet the standards stipulated under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO). To stop importation of diesel taxis, he proposed to amend APCO regulation to enable the Commissioner for Transport to refuse to register diesel taxis from early 2001. Members supported the proposal.

46. DS(C)/EFB said that the Task Force to Improve Air Quality was conducting a consultation exercise with the transport trade on the proposal to control idling engines. He undertook to report to ACE on the results. At the same time, the Bureau was considering imposing control on the amount of fuel that did not meet Hong Kong standard carried by cross-boundary goods vehicles. The proposal had been discussed at the meeting of the Guangdong-Hong Kong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection and ACE would be consulted once the Bureau had formulated a detailed proposal. On air quality, the joint study on regional air quality was scheduled for completion early next year. The Government would discuss with the Guangdong Provincial Government on the measures that should be taken to improve regional air quality to be followed by discussions on practical solution. The trial of electric and LPG light buses would complete early next year. The Administration would consider how best to encourage introduction of cleaner vehicles and phase out old vehicles.

47. The Chairman was concerned whether imposing a ban on the importation of diesel taxis would create a problem for those who had placed orders before implementation of the proposal. A Member said that the trade should have adequate time to respond to the proposal. He then pointed out a set back of the retrofitting of particulate traps that it would create a back pressure on the valves of the vehicle engine, causing it to burn out earlier than without a trap. He said he had drawn EPD's attention to the problem.

48. On the understanding that road side air pollution was mainly resulted from the emissions of diesel vehicles, a Member queried why the Administration had no intention to phase out light diesel vehicles but introduced ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD). Secondly, he asked if there was a timetable for the implementation of control over idling engines. Finally, while noting that the issues were not related to environmental protection, that Member wished to take the opportunity to seek clarification from SEF on the future plan for the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food and the latest progress of the proposed central slaughtering house.

49. DS(C)/EFB said that no new diesel taxi had been imported to Hong Kong since the earlier part of the year since the LPG taxi scheme was announced. He explained that the existing LPG storage infrastructure could only cater for 18,000 taxis plus 6,200 light buses. Given that there were more than 50,000 light diesel vehicles on the road, the Administration had to carefully consider if they could be allowed to switch to LPG all at the same time lest there would not be adequate filling facilities. Since the construction of additional LPG storage infrastructure would require at least five years, the Bureau considered it sensible to encourage the use of cleaner fuels like ULSD as an interim measure to help reduce air pollution. On that Member's question on the control of idling engines, DS(C)/EFB said that consultation with the taxi trade had been completed. The feedback was that the trade foresaw difficulties in complying with the proposal under hot weather condition. Consultation with other transport trades was underway. The Bureau anticipated the formulation of a way forward in the first quarter of 2001.

50. A Member said that the switch to LPG taxis was a right move to improve roadside air quality. However, heavy-duty vehicles were left untouched at present. He said that he had seen in the United Kingdom some heavy-duty vehicle models using dual-fuel (compressed natural gas combined with diesel) engines which could produce much cleaner emissions. He then passed the catalogue of the models to Mr. Chow for reference.

51. In response to a Member's questions on GM food and central slaughtering facility, SEF drew Members' attention to page 20 of the Policy Objective booklet which spelt out the Bureau's initiative to formulate a framework on GM food labelling in the coming year. She said that the Bureau would consult the Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene on the subject. As regards the central slaughtering facility, she said that the Bureau was examining possible options and expected to brief the LegCo Panel on Health Services on the way forward in the coming year.

 


EPD
52. A Member commended EFB and the departments' work in expediting the environmental improvement programme. He appreciated that transport strategy would have an important bearing on achieving the Air Quality Objectives and therefore suggested inviting the Transport Bureau to brief Members on the latest progress of the Third Comprehensive Transport Strategy.

53. A Member enquired about the setting up of the Susdev Unit and the Susdev Council. On waste management matters, he said that waste recycling was just a part of waste management. The Government should be cautious not to raise the public's expectation on creating employment opportunities through providing assistance to the recycling industry. He was of the opinion that in the absence of a landfill charging scheme, it would be difficult to carry out waste reduction and recycling programme effectively.

54. In addressing that Member's concerns, SEF said that the Susdev 21 Study, which was under the purview of the Planning and Lands Bureau, was commissioned by the Planning Department. Since the environment only constituted part of sustainable development, SEF considered that the Susdev Unit and the Susdev Council would operate much more effectively if they were set up under a higher authority than a policy bureau. On the subject of waste management, SEF said that unlike air pollution in which the Government could identify the major polluter and deal with it, successful waste management would count on the support of the community as well as the building and construction industry. Instead of pushing for any waste management scheme at the risk of strong objection, the mindset of the community must be changed first to accept responsibility for reducing and separating waste at source. The Bureau would inform Members of the progress and timeframe of various programmes on waste management so that they could work among their sectors to achieve better results. The Chairman concurred with SEF's view.

55. At the request of the Chairman, DS(C)/EFB briefed Members on the initiatives on noise and cross-boundary environmental issues. For new roads, project proponents were required to comply with Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines to ensure that the anticipated traffic noise level would be within acceptable level. For existing roads and flyovers which were the subject of noise complaints, the Bureau was considering a comprehensive strategy to reduce their traffic noise and would consult the Council within the next two months. As for cross-boundary liaison, the Bureau was co-ordinating the various panels set up under the Joint Working Group and would keep Members informed of the progress as and when any new initiative was drawn up.

 
TB
56. A Member recalled that Members had been given regular reports on the work of the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG) in the past and wondered whether the Hong Kong-Guangdong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection had taken over the work of EPLG. DS(C)/EFB said that EPLG had been replaced by the Working Group. He undertook to produce an information paper on the work of the Joint Working Group over the past six months since its establishment.

57. In response to a Member's enquiry, DS(B)/EFB said that page 15 of the Policy Objective booklet set out an initiative to promulgate a comprehensive nature conservation policy. The Bureau would consult the public on the principles, objectives and mechanism of the policy in 2001. That Member asked how to gain support from the community while the data on areas of high conservation value could not be disclosed. DS(B)/EFB said that the Bureau, in collaboration with AFCD, had been working on a consultation paper to encourage the public to give feedback on principles of conservation and the achievements they were looking for in protecting the landscape and natural heritage of Hong Kong. Through the process, it was hoped that the community would achieve a consensus on conservation. That Member felt that it would be difficult to arouse people's interest in protecting the environment without concrete ideas to talk about and specific species or habitats to be cared for. The Chairman encouraged the green groups to strengthen public education in this aspect.

58. A Member said that since water pollution was also a regional issue, the Government should work more closely with relevant authorities in the Mainland to improve water quality. He agreed with SEF that the support of the community was crucial in waste management. The public should be made to realise that as taxpayers, they were subsidizing the treatment of waste, and a big share came from construction and demolition materials. He also emphasised the importance of involving the business sector in this area and that efforts should be made to raise their awareness.

59. SEF responded that the Government had been working with the relevant Mainland authority through the Joint Working Group which would have its second meeting in December this year in Hong Kong.

60. A Member noticed during a visit to Germany that adults as well as the children there were much more environmentally conscious, and he attributed this to education. He said that in the Susdev Symposium held in Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong and coorganized by the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers together with two other Institutions in Guangdong and Macau, it was agreed and recommendations had been made to their respective governments that 2% of the school contact hours should be devoted to the theme of environmental education. He wondered whether the Education Department played a part in the Bureau's objective regarding community environmental education. He also sought comments from the Chairman who had been the Chairman of the Working Group on Public Education, Awareness and Culture.

61. The Chairman said that the Working Group on Public Education, Awareness and Culture agreed that environment should not be treated as a separate subject. Instead it should be built in every school curriculum.

 
EFB
62. DS(B)/EFB supplemented that the Education Department had been discussing with schools and had set up curriculum groups to take forward recommendations. He undertook to request for more feedback from Education Department and report to this Council in due course.

63. A Member said that overseas visitors or the media usually used the amount of resources spent on a policy subject as a yardstick of the priorities accorded by the Government. He had an experience that a reporter stopped criticizing Hong Kong's environment when he was able to quote the expenditure on environmental protection. As such, he considered it useful to regularly update and make available such data to Members and the media.

 
EFB
64. SEF concurred with that Member that readily available figures were powerful than words in showing the Government's efforts in environmental protection. DS(B)/EFB said that the Bureau was preparing a document setting out how much the Government had been spending in environmental improvement. As a first step, he could circulate the script he recently used in a presentation to the Invest Hong Kong for Members' reference.

65. The Chairman concluded that he was pleased to see more manpower and resources were obtained to work on the environment and noted that much more would be done to catch up with the rapid developments in Hong Kong.

Agenda Item 4 : Revision of Fees and Charges under Air Pollution Control Ordinance, Waste Disposal Ordinance, Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance, EIA Ordinance, and Dumping at Sea Ordinance
(ACE Paper 36/2000)

66. The Chairman welcomed PAS(B)2/EFB and PEPO(CS)/EPD to the meeting. PAS(B)2/EFB briefed Members on the background of the proposed revision of fees and charges.

67. Noting that revenue would be reduced as a result of the proposed revision, a Member wondered about the purpose of the proposal. In reply, PAS(B)2/EFB explained that it was a regular Government-wide exercise to review the level of all fees and charges to ensure that they were in line with the objective of full cost recovery. As a result of the recent review, some fees and charges would need to be adjusted upwards and some downwards. The net result of the proposed adjustment was a reduction in revenue. DS(B)/EFB supplemented that the main reason for the reduction was that EPD had been carrying out extensive computerisation which significantly reduced its operating cost.

68. In response to that Member's follow-up question, PAS(B)2/EFB said that according to the advice of the LegCo in-house meeting, there was no need for the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs to discuss the proposal. That Member asked why the Council was consulted after endorsement by LegCo. DS(B)/EFB said that the Secretary for the Environment and Food would amend the subsidiary regulations after consultation with the Council but the Bureau considered it sensible to present the proposal to the LegCo first to see if they had any queries on the financial aspect before seeking the Council's advice.

69. A Member noted that some of proposed increases were quite drastic. He wondered whether the Bureau could slow down the increase in view of the deflation economy in the past few years. In response, DEP said that the revision was done based on a Government-wide accounting mechanism and thus it was not up to any bureau to decide how the increases and decreases should be made.

70. That Member suggested that to facilitate Members' understanding of the figures, future papers should include details such as the number of licenses involved. PEPO(CS)/EPD agreed.

71. A Member asked whether Government had consulted the construction industry on the increase of fee for obtaining a construction noise permit. In reply, PEPO(CS)/EPD said that instead of consulting each and every sector affected by the proposed revision, Finance Bureau had conducted a general consultation and consulted the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs which had not raised objection to the proposal.

72. The Chairman concluded that the Council had no objection to the proposed revision.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work of ACE

73. Members noted the tentative schedule of work.

Visit to Macau

74. The Chairman understood that the Bureau would reply to Mr. Otto Poon's letter of 6 September 2000 regarding the recommendations made by the three institutions which co-organized the Susdev Symposium in Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong. He then informed Members that he had requested the Secretariat to arrange a visit to the relevant authorities and organizations in Macau to exchange views on environmental protection matters.

 
EFB
Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

75. The Chairman informed Members that the next meeting was scheduled for 27 November 2000. He asked whether the date would coincide with the briefing by the International Review Panel on its report on the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme. DS(B)/EFB said that a special briefing on the report might be necessary and Members would be informed in due course.

 




EFB
ACE Secretariat
November 2000


 

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