Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 96th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 21 May 2002 at 2:30 p.m.


Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Prof. Peter HILLS  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Prof. LAM Kin-che  
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM  
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mrs. Mei NG  
Ms. Iris TAM  
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan, JP  
Miss Alex YAU  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  

Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Barrie COOK
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON


In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM, JP Secretary for the Environment and Food
Mr. Thomas CHOW Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (B), EFB
Mr. Rob LAW, JP Director of Environmental Protection
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mr. T K LEE Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (Plan D)
Mr. Eric CHAN Principal Information Officer, EFB
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Officer (EPD)
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB

In Attendance for Agenda Item 3

Ms. Annie CHOI Principal Assistant Secretary (B)2, EFB
Dr. Lawrence T K WONG Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Planning), EPD

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Mr. Howard CHAN Principal Assistant Secretary (C)1, EFB
Mr. C W TSE Assistant Director (Air), EPD
Mr. Michael CHAN Project Manager, CH2M Hill (China) Limited
Mr. David YEUNG Deputy Project Manager, CH2M Hill (China) Limited

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5

Mr. K K KWOK Deputy Secretary for Works (Programme and Resources)
Mr. Raistlin LAU Principal Assistant Secretary (B)1, EFB
Mr. C L NG Chief Assistant Secretary (Programme and Resources), Works Bureau

In Attendance for Agenda Item 6

Ms. Linda HO Chief Executive Officer, Green Council (GC)
Mr. Eric CHING Principal Consultant of Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC)
Miss Norrie KITCHELL Executive Officer, GC


Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 95th Meeting held on 29 April 2002

A Member proposed to add after the first sentence in para. 72 "But for the purpose of statutory land use control, the data base had to be more specific than 1km grid. She hoped that the public information would help prevent time-consuming review and appeal procedures in future planning applications." Another Member proposed to revise the third sentence in para. 40 to read "On the other hand, if the advisory role…..Policy Unit, the Council....". As for the second sentence in para. 40, the second Member said that though it was correctly recorded, he actually intended to refer to the Council instead of the Subcommittee because the EIA Ordinance only made reference to the full Council. The minutes were confirmed subject to the above proposed amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 2 - Performance of the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre at Tsing Yi

2. The Chairman informed Members that EPD would present a report and brief Members on the operation of the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre at the next meeting. Para. 6 - A Member's comments on the EIA Report on the Decommissioning of Cheoy Lee Shipyard

3. Members noted that the Secretariat had passed on a Member's comments to the project proponent (i.e. CED) and EPD for their consideration.(Post-meeting note : Response from EPD to that Member was received and circulated to Members on 4 June 2002.)

Para. 19 - Briefing on improving air quality in Pearl River Delta Region

4. The Chairman said that the briefing would be conducted under agenda item 4 of the meeting.

Agenda Item 3 : Proposed amendments to Waste Disposal (Refuse Transfer Station) Regulation and Waste Disposal (Designated Waste Disposal Facility) Regulation
(Cap. 354)(ACE Paper 17/2002)

5. The Chairman welcomed Ms. Annie Choi and Dr. Lawrence Wong to the meeting. Ms. Choi briefed Members on the proposed legislative amendments.

6. In reply to a Member's question on the different level of charges, Ms. Choi explained that the different charges for the Northwest New Territories Transfer Station and the Ma Wan Transfer Station were due to the different additional cost in handling municipal solid waste delivered by private waste collectors in those two facilities. Dr. Wong supplemented that the additional handling cost of Ma Wan Transfer Station was higher because of the comparatively smaller size of the facility.

7. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the proposals set out under para. 19 of the paper.

Agenda Item 4: Briefing on Improving Air Quality in Pearl River Delta Region
(ACE Paper 15/2002)

8. The Chairman welcomed Messrs. Howard Chan, C W Tse, Michael Chan and David Yeung to the meeting. Mr. Howard Chan briefed Members on the background of the Study of Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta Region (the Study) and the consensus reached by the Hong Kong Government and the Guangdong Provincial Government in tackling the regional air pollution problem. Mr. Michael Chan presented the findings of the Study and the suggested measures in detail.

9. Noting that one of suggested measures in the Study report was that the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone (PRDEZ) should acquire more electricity from western provinces, the Chairman was concerned that the air quality in PRDEZ might be improved at the expense of the western area. In response, Mr. Michael Chan clarified that the report recommended that energy should be generated from cleaner fuel or methods such as hydroelectric power plants in the western provinces.

10. A Member asked how it could be ensured that the public would consume energy generated from cleaner source. In reply, Mr. Michael Chan said that the forces of supply and demand in the market could affect consumption pattern.

11. A Member commended the initiative taken by the two governments to address the regional air pollution problem. He welcomed the suggested measures on the energy sector, because apart from improving air quality, they would also reduce green house gas emissions. However, in the absence of an energy policy, the feasibility of such measures was uncertain. Also, the Study report emphasized the visibility aspect and seemed to have neglected the health aspect. Since improvement required joint efforts, he asked how Hong Kong's air quality would be affected in case the Guangdong side fell short of their targets.

12. In response to a Member's comments, Mr. Michael Chan said that visibility was only one of the indicators of the air quality. The focus of the Study was on meeting the air quality objectives of the two places. The objectives were set to protect public health. As regard the achievement of targets, Mr. Chan said that both governments had committed to making their best efforts to tackle the regional air pollution problem. The expert group would need to monitor the implementation of improvement measures with a view to achieving the agreed targets.

13. In response to a Member's comments, Mr. Howard Chan said that the expert group would assess in detail the feasibility of the suggested measures and draw up a regional air quality management plan. At present, all new power plants in Hong Kong must use cleaner fuels like natural gas.

14. A Member echoed a previous Member's concerns and said that the two governments could address the problem squarely only if the proportion of pollution attributed from each side was assessed. In response, Mr. Michael Chan said that it was not important to differentiate the extent of the problem caused by each side because the problem would still exist if only one side were to address the issue on its own. The pertinent point was that both governments had recognized the regional problem and were determined to tackle it from their own end.

15. A Member asked whether the results of the joint monitoring would be made public. In reply, Mr. C W Tse said that the expert group would take time to set up the monitoring network. Once the network was established, the annual monitoring results would be reported to the Hong Kong/Guangdong Cooperation Joint Conference. Thereafter, EPD would be happy to brief the Council on the findings. The Chairman suggested and Mr. Tse undertook to report to the Council the terms of reference of the expert group and its work schedule after the group was set up.

16. A Member asked how sensitive the suggested measures would be in terms of emission reduction in different types of pollutants. He noted that the report had put enormous emphasis on Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) and air quality standards in the Mainland. However, those objectives and standards were often out of date and bore little relationship to health risks. AQOs were subject to regular review over the world. According to some tentative figures given by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the acceptable nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration was half the present level in Hong Kong. The WHO's suggested figure for respirable suspended particulate concentration, though already less than half of that in Hong Kong, was still considered as imposing adverse health impact on children. He was worried that the ultimate outcome of implementing the suggested measures would best be maintaining the status quo. He therefore asked if there were any realistic objectives for the whole exercise, in particular in terms of health benefits.

17. In response to that Member's comments, Mr. Michael Chan said that Hong Kong's AQOs were comparable to major developed countries like the United States.

18. A Member said that a recent study suggested that chronic exposure to some of the pollutants would not only affect lungs but also DNAs. The Government should adopt an integrated approach of particulate matter PM 2.5 and ozone which would provide a more definitive indicator on health risk. She asked whether air quality measurements in areas outside the PRD region had been taken to serve as background data and whether there had been cross-calibration of equipment to ensure the accuracy of the data in the Study. She also enquired about the type of data that the consultant had access to and whether emission trading was possible within the region.

19. On the issues of AQOs and new standards of PM2.5, Mr. Thomas Chow said that the Government had been watching closely overseas development on those two areas. The Unites States had yet to develop a plan to meet the new PM2.5 objectives. Also, the European Union (EU) had committed to completing a review of their current AQOs by 2003. The Administration would take into account the outcome of the EU review and what the United States planned to do in deciding whether the AQOs in Hong Kong should be reviewed and if so, what changes would be necessary.

20 Mr. Michael Chan showed Members a map to demonstrate that background air quality measurements had been taken outside the PRD region. On the issue of equipment, he said that the experts ensured that the equipment was calibrated and that the whole process was conducted in an accurate and proper manner. The consultant's data was obtained from experts of both sides. On emission trading, it was possible to increase emission from one source if emission from another source within the same region was reduced.

21. A Member welcomed the achievement made in terms of the consensus reached and targets agreed by the two governments. However, he felt that the commitment "on a best endeavour basis" was a bit vague. In addition to ultimate targets by 2010, he suggested setting up interim targets to keep track of the progress of work. He felt that apart from tackling the problem on the technical front, support from the community was crucial to the success of the exercise. The Administration should therefore devote more attention to solicit public support.

22. Mr. Howard Chan said that the regional air quality management plan would be implemented in phases. Among other things, the expert group would be tasked to monitor the progress made and the effectiveness of the measures implemented. Public consultation would be conducted for any additional proposed control measures for Hong Kong once they were drawn up. The Administration would consult the Council on any such proposals and keep the Council informed of the progress of work.

23. A Member queried if setting the same targets for emission reduction for both sides was realistic. In the absence of an energy policy in Hong Kong, little could be done in the local energy sector. In response, Mr. Howard Chan said that the agreed targets, though aggressive, were technically achievable.

24. Noting that the targets were set using 1997 as the base year, and that there had been improvements in air quality since 1997, a Member enquired about the actual targets for emission reduction. In reply, Mr. Michael Chan explained that the emission figures in 2000 in fact showed an increase when compared to those in 1997. Therefore, the emission reduction targets were even tougher than they seemed to be.

25. A Member remarked that she was a bit puzzled by Mr. Michael Chan's reply because air quality in Hong Kong had been improved in the past few years. She also asked whether the report had taken into account aircraft emissions when drawing up the recommendations.

26. In response, Mr. Michael Chan clarified that whilst local air quality had indeed been improving in recent years due to the implementation of various vehicle emission control schemes, regional air quality continued to deteriorate. As for aircraft emission, since it contributed to less than 10% of the total emission and was governed by international aviation treaties, the report had not made any recommendations on that front.

27. A Member expressed concern about the reliability of the data sources. He asked where the figures for the year 1991 to 2001 were obtained and whether the data had been accepted by the Guangdong Provincial Government.

28. In response, Mr. Michael Chan said that the source of data was highly reliable. The figures on visibility were obtained from the World Meteorology Organisation which took measurements at the Guangzhou airport. The data adopted in the Study report had also been accepted by the Guangdong side.

29. A Member pointed out that Hong Kong and Guangdong were at different stages of economic development and therefore might need different methods to tackle the air pollution problem. Vehicle emission was a major source of air pollution in Hong Kong. As a role model, Hong Kong should demonstrate to her counterpart by taking steps such as better planning of transport infrastructure and reducing vehicle emissions. Whilst public consultation had its merits, the Administration should firmly proceed with the exercise albeit there might be objection from people with vested interest. Finally, he enquired about the estimated economic implications of the whole exercise.

30. In response, Mr. Thomas Chow said that there were two major recommendations in the report for Hong Kong to implement. One was to reduce emission of volatile organic compounds. Although the production cost of printing ink and the price of consumer products concerned might increase as a result of the proposed measures, the overall economic impact, as suggested by overseas experience, was anticipated to be minimal. The other suggestion was to reduce emissions by local power plants. As the Economic Services Bureau was undertaking a review of the post-2008 power industry, it would be premature to produce a meaningful cost estimate before the completion of the review and before we knew what measures would be taken to meet the emission reduction targets concerning power plants.

31. A Member agreed with Prof. Hills that Hong Kong should stand as a role model for the Guangdong side. He noticed that workers in petrol filling stations were not protected from the vapour released during the refilling process. Also, burning of waste and plastic was uncontrolled in the Mainland and that could result in dioxin emission. Some actions should be taken in those two areas..

32. In response to that Member's remarks regarding petrol filling stations, Mr. Tse explained that at present the stations were required to install a vapour recovery system for loading fuel into the underground tank. The next stage would be the installation of a vapour recovery system at the fuel pumps. EPD was working on that proposal in collaboration with operators of filling stations and oil companies. As regard burning of waste in the Mainland, the emission of dioxin arising from burning was a localized rather than a regional problem. There were at present two dioxin-monitoring stations in Hong Kong. The monitoring data showed that the level of dioxin in the ambient air was well within standard.

33. A Member pointed out that town planning in the Mainland did not catch up with the increase in the number of vehicles. She asked whether vehicle emissions during traffic congestion would have a greater impact on air quality and expressed concern about the extent that vehicle owners in the Mainland would provide regular maintenance for their vehicles.

34. In response, Mr. Michael Chan said that the effect of traffic congestion on air quality had been taken into account in the Study. One of the suggested measures for the Guangdong side to consider was to expedite the schedule for introducing vehicles of higher-standard engines. In that regard, the Study report suggested that vehicles using Euro III and Euro IV engines should be introduced by 2005 and 2010 respectively. As for vehicle maintenance, the report also proposed that the Guangdong side should come up with an advanced vehicle inspection/maintenance programme to ensure that vehicles were properly maintained.

35. A Member updated Members on the manufacturing of vehicles. The price of vehicles of cleaner engines was going down as the technology matured. European manufacturers had stopped producing Euro II engines whilst Japan had not. Upon implementation of the next stage of vapour recovery system for petrol filling stations, the ozone concentration in Hong Kong was expected to decrease by 1%. The air quality in Tung Chung was often worse than the other parts of the territory. Aircraft emissions might be the cause.

36. Mr. Tse clarified that the air pollution problem in Tung Chung had very little to do with aircraft emissions. The fact that ozone concentration would have a higher record in Tung Chung was because ozone would react with nitrogen oxides in urban areas to form NO2 thus reducing the concentration in those areas.

37. The Chairman thanked the Administration and the consultant for the briefing and welcomed the collaboration between the Hong Kong and Guangdong Provincial Governments on tackling the regional air quality problem.

Agenda Item 5: Speeding up of public works projects - Foreshore and Sea-bed and Roads (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2002
(ACE Paper 18/2002)

38. The Chairman welcomed Messrs. K K Kwok, Raistlin Lau, and C L Ng to the meeting. Mr. K K Kwok briefed Members on the proposals.

39. The Chairman had reservation on shortening the public objection period from two months to one month lest there would not be sufficient time for the public to raise objections. In response, Mr. Kwok said that the public would have had knowledge about the project through consultation with District Councils and various advisory bodies before gazettal of the project. One month was considered sufficient.

40. A Member agreed with the Chairman and added that the one-month objection period would unlikely satisfy the legislators given that public interest was involved.

41. Two Members also considered that one month would not be sufficient for the public to make an informed decision on whether to raise an objection or not.

42. A Member shared Members' concerns as well. She said that there was value for the public to participate in the process as they might come up with alternative proposals. Also, the objection process would depend on the amount and the comprehensiveness of information provided to the public.

43. A Member enquired about the steps taken by the Government upon receiving an objection. He also suggested that Government should ensure better coordination among different works projects in the same area to minimize the disturbance to the public.

44. Mr. Kwok explained that upon receiving an objection within the objection period, the project proponent would try to resolve the objection through consultation. If the objection was still unresolved after the statutory period, the Works Department would seek an extension from the Chief Executive. If it remained unresolved at the end of the extended period, it would be referred to the Chief Executive in Council for a decision. Of the 24 sewerage projects carried out over the past five years, only one of the projects had unresolved objections.

45. A Member made reference to the Town Planning Ordinance, under which the public was allowed to raise objections within two months after gazettal of proposals and put forward alternatives within the following nine months. She considered that a good practice as the public needed time to work out an alternative. In response, Mr. Kwok said that under the existing practice, the public was also allowed to put forward alternatives within the objection resolution period.

46. A Member was of the opinion that prolonged objections might slow down the progress of a project and affect economic development in some cases. He supported the proposal of shortening the objection period. 47. A Member said that from her own experience, even two months was sometimes insufficient for raising a substantive objection. As the total objection resolution period would be shortened from 15 months to seven months, retaining the two-month objection period would not significantly affect the ultimate objective of the proposal.

48. In response to that Member's enquiry, Mr. Kwok confirmed that one month referred to one calendar month.

49. Mr. Kwok thanked Members for their comments and said that he would take them into consideration.

50. The Chairman concluded that except for the proposal to shorten the objection period from two months to one month, the Council supported the recommendations set out in the paper.

Agenda Item 6 : Briefing on Hong Kong Green Label Scheme
(ACE Paper 19/2002)

51. The Chairman informed the meeting that Mr. Edward Ho, as the Vice Chairman of Green Council, Prof. Lam Kin-che and Mr. Lin Chaan-ming had declared interest. He then welcomed Ms. Linda Ho, Mr. Eric Ching, and Miss Norrie Kitchell to the meeting. Ms. Ho gave Members a presentation on the Hong Kong Green Label Scheme (HKGLS).

52. In response to the Chairman's question about the nature and scope of work of the Green Council (GC), Miss Kitchell said that GC was basically a green group but it concentrated more on the activity and education sides. It organized school activities to promote environmental friendliness and recently conducted a competition on green label logo. By engaging the public in those activities, it was expected that they would be more aware of green consumerism. HKGLS was only one of the major tasks of GC. 53. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Miss Kitchell said that GC was a green group but not a pressure group.

54. A Member asked how HKGLS would obtain recognition from consumers and whether there was support from the Government. He considered that legislative support was necessary to gain acceptance from the community.

55. Mr. Edward Ho, speaking in the capacity as the Vice Chairman of GC, disagreed with a Member's point regarding legislative support because the incentive of the applicants under the HKGLS was to gain market access to other countries as labeled products would have an edge over their competitors which were not labeled.

56. A Member asked whether the Government supported the HKGLS and if so, whether there was a policy on green consumerism. In response, Mr. Donald Tong said that the Government in principle welcomed private-sector initiatives in promoting green consumerism in Hong Kong. In most economies, eco-labeling schemes were not run by Government. In some economies, more than one eco-labeling schemes existed at the same time. As there were no international standards on eco-labeling schemes at the moment and bearing in mind any proposed eco-labeling assessment criteria would cut across a wide range of trades, it would take a long time to work out standards that were acceptable to the relevant trades and the community if such a scheme were taken up by the Government. That said, the Government would keep in view international development on eco-labeling and review the local situation from time to time.

57. A Member welcomed the HKGLS. He said that it was important for the scheme to be perceived as up to professional standards and therefore asked whether it had been independently audited. He also relayed Mrs. Mei Ng's following questions on the subject -

      (a) whether GC had consulted the Consumer Council and other health experts to ensure the quality of its work;
  (b) whether the Government played a monitoring role over HKGLS; and
  (c) the channel of complaints by the public and appeals from applicants.

58. Mr. Edward Ho emphasized that GC was a non-profit making body and that it set out to accomplish its mission in a professional manner. In the absence of international standards, GC made reference to other schemes in developed countries when establishing the HKGLS.

59. Mr. Eric Ching supplemented that GC benchmarked and made reference to overseas eco-labeling schemes when setting up the HKGLS. The scheme was not solely operated by GC and the Hong Kong Productivity Council. It was overseen by an advisory committee comprising members from various sectors, including academics and experts of various fields. In addition, GC was a member of the Global Eco-labeling Network (GEN) which would ensure the quality of work done by GC. Miss Kitchell informed Members that in a recent assessment conducted according to GEN criteria, GC complied with 95% of the requirements. The assessment demonstrated that the operation of the HKGLS by GC was up to a recognized standard.

60. On the monitoring issue, Mr. Edward Ho said that though the Government had not yet taken an active role in monitoring eco-labeling schemes, the Consumer Council should safeguard the rights of consumers in all cases. As regard appeals from applicants who failed in their applications, Mr. Ching explained that GC would explain the reasons to them and allow sufficient time for them to provide supplementary information, if necessary. If the applicants felt that GC had done them injustice, they could lodge a complaint to GC, the advisory committee or even GEN. The practice that the final decision rested with the labeling agency was in line with that of overseas eco-labeling schemes.

61. A Member commented that the Government could play a leading role in promoting green consumerism and draw up guidelines on purchase of green products. The Government Supplies Department had recently completed a Green Specification Study and the findings could provide a basis for such guidelines. She asked whether the assessment criteria for the HKGLS were available to the public and whether there were any HKGLS labeled products in the market.

62. In response to that Member's comments on Government purchasing guidelines, Mr. Donald Tong said that the Government was aware of the importance of setting an example in green consumerism. For example, departments had been advised to take into account the environmental consideration when procuring goods and services.

63. The Chairman informed Members that the Hospital Authority had a set of purchasing guidelines. If Members were interested, the Council might discuss the subject at a future meeting.

64. Mr. Ching informed the meeting that all information concerning the HKGLS, including application procedures and criteria, was available on the internet. Ms. Linda Ho said that there were currently three HKGLS labeled products in the market and nine applications were under consideration.

65. In response to the Chairman, Mr. Ching said that so far, there was no eco-labeling scheme for organic vegetables yet.

66. A Member said that apart from promoting environmentally friendly products in the market, children should be taught to reduce waste by avoiding buying more than what was needed.

67. The Chairman thanked the representatives from GC for their presentation and wished them well in the HKGLS.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting

68. The Chairman informed Members that apart from the EIA Subcommittee report, the following three items were tentatively scheduled for the next meeting -

      (a) briefing on the 2001 Waste Reduction Framework Plan by Mr. Otto Poon;
  (b) briefing on the performance of the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre at Tsing Yi by EPD; and>
  (c) the progress of work of the Task Force (Black Spots).

Agenda Item 8 : Date of next meeting

69. The Chairman reminded Members that the date of the next meeting was 17 June 2002 and that the farewell lunch for Mrs. Lily Yam would be held on the same day before the meeting. ACE Secretariat June 2002


ACE Secretariat
May 2002




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