Environmental Protection Department (EPD) had a most remarkable
and fruitful year in 2005. We launched a long list of very
important policy initiatives with far reaching consequences.
I sometimes wonder how we managed to get so much on our plate.
On all fronts, but especially in respect of solid waste, air
and water, we have been able to press ahead with important
decisions and programmes to protect the environment. This
begs the question, why this year?
The urgency of the environmental problems Hong Kong faces is the
obvious answer. Our landfills are rapidly running out of space and
we need to act quickly to reduce waste loads. Smog continues to
blight our skyline and we must get on with effective measures to
reduce air pollution to below 1997 levels by 2010, as agreed with
Guangdong. Parts of Victoria Harbour are still heavily polluted
and we need to ensure that the next stage of the Harbour Area Treatment
Scheme is built on time, by 2013-14. We also must continue with
our other prevention and cleanup programmes to meet the community's
aspirations for a better environment.
Identifying problems is only the first step towards addressing
them. In 2005 we also strengthened our resolve and ability to tackle
them. The EPD merged with the environment arm of the Environment,
Transport and Works Bureau on April 1 significantly de-layering
the decision-making mechanism by bringing policy-making and implementation
functions under one roof. As a result we have become more efficient.
We are able to act and respond quickly and get our voices heard
at the highest level of Government.
In practical terms, the merger has enabled us to produce a range
of major policy initiatives in the short space of less than a year.
Conservation policy making is now under the EPD where we marry it
with our efforts to protect the natural environment through planning
and prevention, while the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Department continues to operate as the executive arm. A Cross-boundary
and International Division has been set up to handle the growing
workload on regional and international issues. However, the most
immediate effect of the merger has been the swift manner in which
we have been able to address Hong Kong's most pressing environmental
On solid waste, we published "A Policy Framework for the Management
of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014)" in December, a comprehensive
statement on how we will tackle all aspects of the waste problem.
For the first time, a full list of measures, such as waste avoidance
and minimisation, source separation of waste, municipal solid waste
charging, product responsibility schemes, recycling, the EcoPark,
waste treatment (including incineration) and landfill extensions,
are all covered in one policy document. As a first step in applying
the polluter pays principle and to save our landfill space, we enacted
new legislation during the year enabling charges to be levied on
the disposal of construction waste.
In respect of air pollution, we introduced a cap on emissions from
power plants, the biggest local source of emissions that contribute
to regional smog. The Government also sought to promote energy conservation
in the community. We launched a campaign to encourage the public
to set indoor summer temperatures at 25.5 degrees Celsius, promoted
the wider use of renewable energy and launched a public consultation
exercise on the introduction of legislation on energy efficiency
labelling for selected electrical appliances. Pollution from volatile
organic compounds (VOCs), an important source of smog, was addressed
as we drew up proposals to control the level of VOCs in various
industrial and consumer products. We have also greatly enhanced
our collaboration with Guangdong by setting up a regional air quality
monitoring network, which provides the public with daily reports
on air quality in the Pearl River Delta region.
For water, we took
the decision to proceed with Stage Two of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) in two phases.
Underpinned by a determination to apply the polluter pays principle
to sewage treatment, we are working towards completing the first
phase in 2013-14. The Government will bear the construction costs
but polluters, which means all of us, must pay the cost of treating
We have launched these important initiatives simultaneously into
orbit. Their success will depend on whether we are able to forge
a strong partnership with the community in their implementation.
While the EPD sets targets and draws up strategies to achieve them,
we cannot hope to secure a healthy and sustainable environment unless
the community supports and participates in our programmes.
Everyone in the community has a responsibility and a role to play
in protecting the environment. Waste separation, sewage and waste
disposal charges, conservation of energy and acceptance of the need
to build new facilities are some of the demands that will be placed
on the community in the next few years. This report outlines the
details of our plans and how far we have come in implementing them.
It also presses home a fundamental principle for environmental protection
in Hong Kong: that Government cannot improve the environment on
its own. This is a shared responsibility and everyone must pull
We will be promoting this message in 2006 with vigour and determination,
as we seek to deliver what we have set out to achieve. We will also
press ahead with the initiatives we have set in train in 2005. I
hope we will have the strong support and active participation of
the community in our collective effort to improve the environment.