Environment Bureau Environmental Protection Department ENVIRONMENT HONG KONG 2008
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It is simply not possible to implement new environmental policies without the community's backing. Public involvement and support are prerequisites.

Mr Edward YAU, JP Secretary for the Environment


As Hong Kong becomes increasingly conscious of the need to protect the environment, the community also understands that raising the quality of life must be done in a sustainable way. We took a big step in 2007 towards that goal. An Environment Bureau was created to oversee not only environmental protection but also policies involving energy, sustainable development and nature conservation.

Sustainable development sprang from a global movement to help protect the environment. The forces that worked to save the environment recognised that this worthwhile cause cannot be pursued at the expense of development. The two must run on the same track. Nature conservation is the protection of natural resources that are important for the conservation of Hong Kong's biological diversity in a sustainable manner. A re-organised Environment Bureau has enabled the Government to better consolidate and co-ordinate these related policy areas under one roof.

Already we are making an impact. The new Scheme of Control Agreements to regulate the power sector was negotiated in 2007 and, for the first time, included incentives to reduce emissions and invest in renewable energies.  This will help achieve the targets we have agreed with Guangdong to reduce air pollution by cutting the levels of four pollutants to below 1997 levels by 2010. Hong Kong is making good progress in reducing every pollutant except sulphur dioxide, which mainly comes from power generation. That is exactly why we have imposed emission caps on all power plants in Hong Kong.  We will gradually tighten the emission caps and stipulate them in the law to ensure a smooth, timely and transparent implementation of these caps for the power sector. Putting energy and environmental policies under one roof has made the road to this goal far smoother.

Photo of plants

No well-run community would pursue environmental protection independently of the community's development needs. Sustainable development must remain the keyword and in Hong Kong this also helps to shape environmental policies. The Council for Sustainable Development conducted a public consultation in 2007 on issues concerning air quality and received more than 80 000 submissions. This impressive response rate demonstrated public concern about our air quality. The Council also made recommendations on population policy, based on a 2006 consultation, including targets for achieving a better quality of life for Hong Kong people.

As a bustling city, having an easily accessible countryside lends a lot to our quality of life. The Government's conservation efforts have a long history. We have now started the process to designate our 24th country park on Northern Lantau. This will increase our total country parks area to about 44 000 hectares.

On the environmental front, we are making progress on long-term improvements in many areas. The Legislative Council approved higher sewage charges in 2007 to bring them closer in line with the polluter pays principle. Our Programme on Source Separation of Domestic Waste continued to expand.  By the end of 2007, we had enrolled 766 housing estates in the programme, covering 42 per cent of the population. The Legislative Council approved a five-year Cleaner Production Partnership Programme to promote cleaner production technologies and practices among Hong Kong-owned factories in the Pearl River Delta region. It also agreed to the injection of $1 billion into the Environment and Conservation Fund to enhance community participation in environment and conservation matters.

Policies do not exist in a vacuum; they must be supported by the public. To make policies work, we must reach out to the public. This is precisely why we emphasise time and again the importance of public engagement. In 2007, we consulted the public on an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags, a proposal to ban idling vehicle engines as well as a proposal to introduce mandatory implementation of Building Energy Codes.

It is simply not possible to implement new environmental policies without the community's backing. Public involvement and support are prerequisites. In 2007 we launched the "I Love Hong Kong! I Love Green!" campaign to unify our community-based programmes under one slogan and one goal: encouraging people to go for green in their daily lives. The daily environmentally-conscious efforts individuals make may seem small on their own but they can add up to significant improvements in Hong Kong's environment.

The Hong Kong people's own efforts can make a big difference but the difference becomes even bigger if our efforts are supported by strategies on a regional and global scale. Our bureau is well aware of its obligations beyond Hong Kong's boundary. Regionally, we are co-operating extensively with our counterparts in Mainland China on a wide range of issues. We are also working to meet our international obligations on climate change. Alongside some other 20 member economies, Hong Kong adopted the APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development in September 2007, which calls on APEC economies to achieve a reduction in energy intensity of at least 25 per cent by 2030. To underscore our commitment, the Chief Executive reaffirmed in his 2007-08 Policy Address that Hong Kong would do everything it can to meet this required reduction in energy intensity. Hong Kong has also joined the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, which promotes a joint effort among cities in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy efficiency. We want the same thing as our neighbours near and far – a better environment – and we are committed to fulfilling our share of the responsibility in achieving that goal.

 

Edward YAU

Edward YAU, JP
Secretary for the Environment