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Speech by SETW on the 38th International General
Meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council -
Session on Energy and the Environment (Eng only)


    Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the 38th International General Meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) - Session on Energy and the Environment at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today (June 13) (English Only):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

    It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to our lovely and dynamic city of Hong Kong. This afternoon I am honored to chair the Session on Energy and the Environment of the 38th PBEC International General Meeting. Your very presence at this session is encouraging as it signifies the recognition of the important relationship between energy and the environment and the significant of collaborative efforts from the private and public sectors.

    Energy consumption rate is a direct indicator of the economic development of a society. The energy consumption rates per capita in Year 2002 for the United States, India and China are 339.1, 13.3 and 33.3 million British Thermal Unit (Btu)* respectively.  The CO2 produced per capita for the above economies are 24.9, 1 and 2.2 tonnes correspondingly.  So while nations and individuals alike strive for economic growth to bring about better quality of life, ironically, we are also somehow impinging on the environment and thereby creating substantial suffering for ourselves. In general, some of the pollution problems (such as SO2, NOx & RSP) generated from the process of burning fossil fuels are well recognised by the developed world and abatement technologies and control policies are abundant. On the other hand, there are still debates over the effect of CO2 on global warming and efforts to reduce CO2 in some countries are lukewarm.

     In the era of globalisation, we need to remind ourselves that pollution also knows no boundary. Energy consumed in the production of goods benefiting our consumers will at the same time cause considerable damage to our common habitat, the Earth.  In the calculation of cost and benefit, we must not forget that ultimately all environmental damage will affect all of us. To deliberately give a time or spatial displacement to environmental impacts would be very unwise and irresponsible.

    There are extensive efforts to produce cleaner energy through the use of cleaner fuels such as LNG.  There are encouraging breakthroughs in fuel-cell technology, hybrid systems, bio-diesels and the use of hydrogen. There are also countries which have successfully adopted the use of renewable energy as a significant source of power supply, such as the Nordic countries. Yet up to now, only less than 0.1% of photovoltaic energy is in use - we have to ask - are we doing enough, in terms of both the software and hardware development for renewable energy?

    At a recent meeting held between the developing countries (including China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa) and G8 countries, one of the conclusions drawn was that developing countries, with limited resources and relatively low energy requirements, are ideally placed to develop and benefit from renewable energy. The barriers that need to be overcome are many but not insurmountable - these include effective policies, sound regulatory frameworks, proper institutional setups and availability of technical resources.  However, this idea would need the commitment of all stakeholders to become a reality.

    Some says the financial sector holds the future - maybe they are right.  Almost two years ago, 10 of the world's largest banks signed an agreement to address the social and environmental impacts of the projects which they financed (over US$50m) - the so called "Equator Principles".  At present, 29 financial institutions have adopted them, representing 75% of the project finance market in 2003.  Environmental impacts such as impacts on biodiversity, climate change and ecological footprint are part of the project analysis and evaluation.  Environment has been brought onto the balance sheet.

    Practically how would this work for energy and the environment?  We have seen the efforts of international partnerships such as Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) to accelerate the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency while reducing impacts on the environment. We have also witnessed financing mechanisms such as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Certified Emission Reduction Trading (CER) to provide economic incentives or disincentives in business considerations.  This afternoon we have six renowned personalities representing the academia, regulator, energy sector and NGO, I look forward to lively debates over their insights on these important issues and together we not only hope to set the pace for the Global economy but at the same gain momentum towards sustainable development for our common future.

* British Thermal Unit (Btu) is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.  1 Btu is about 1055 joules.

Ends/Monday, June 13, 2005


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