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SETW's speech at International Green Purchasing Congress 2006 (English only)

    Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at International Green Purchasing Congress 2006 today (November 30):

Dr Leung, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It is my great pleasure to join you today to open the International Green Purchasing Congress 2006.  On behalf of the HKSAR Government, I extend our warmest welcome to our overseas guests and I congratulate the Green Council and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for bringing together such distinguished participants.  I am sure the many experts and officials from places as far afield as Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK, and the US, as well as those from Taiwan and the Mainland of China, will have much experience to share that will make this Congress especially fruitful.    

     A proactive approach to green purchasing is one of the most significant contributions that major organisations can make in terms of protecting the environment.  The HKSAR Government alone purchases some $10 billion worth of products every year.  I am sure our private corporations purchase much more.  Collectively the purchasing power is huge.  By harnessing it and using it in an environmentally responsible manner, we can influence and advance the development of the market in green products, and help achieve a circular economy where the use of precious natural resources is optimised through recovery, recycling and re-use.  Our purchasing decisions can also greatly help in the conservation of natural resources, and in reducing our impact on the environment.  

     In Hong Kong, with our very limited land and congested living environment, it is especially important that we implement the three Rs.  In 2005 alone, we generated more than 6 million tonnes of municipal solid waste. Although 43% of this waste was recovered and recycled, we still dumped 3.4 millions tonnes of waste in our landfills. If we go on like this, our landfills will be full up in just five to nine years' time. To address this dire situation, last year the Government published a "Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014)", which set out a comprehensive action plan for the next decade.  One of the key objectives of the Policy Framework is to kick-start a circular economy. Green purchasing is a crucial and indispensable element of our strategy for doing this.    

     The HKSAR Government has shown the way in adopting a green procurement policy. Six years ago, we amended our procurement regulations to require each and every department to take environmental considerations into account when making procurement decisions.  In particular, they must avoid single-use disposable items as far as possible, and give preference to products with more recycled content, improved recyclability, greater durability and reduced packaging.  We have also developed a set of "green" specifications for products that we use in large quantity.  For instance, we require our recycled printing paper to have 80% recycled fibre content. And our correction fluid and thinner must be completely free of ozone-depleting chemicals.  Following these guidelines, in the past four years, the Government has already purchased more than $180 million worth of "green" products.  In the arena of public works, we require project designers to take concrete steps at the planning and design stages to minimise the generation of construction and demolition material, and maximize its reuse in construction works.  As a result, since 2002, we have made use of more than 634,000 tonnes of "recycled aggregates" for concrete production, filter materials, pipe bedding, road sub-base material, paving blocks, granular fill and stone columns in more than 150 public works contracts.  These examples show what can be achieved with determination and commitment.  

     With the launching of our "Action Blue Sky" campaign, energy saving and energy efficiency have become a focus of attention here, providing another opportunity for purchasing decisions to influence environmental outcomes, provided that the right products are available. Some of you might already be aware of our voluntary "Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme" which currently covers 17 types of household appliances and office equipment.  To help consumers make appropriate purchasing decisions, we are currently preparing new legislation for the introduction of a mandatory labelling scheme for three types of products - air-conditioners, refrigerators and compact fluorescent lamps.  Choosing products with better energy efficiency is a win-win situation.  Not only does it offer environmental benefits in terms of reduced power consumption and hence reduced quantities of polluting by-products, but also save you money. This is the kind of equation my Treasury colleagues particularly like to see. I am sure the accounts departments in the private sector look at things in the same way, and I hope our private corporations can become more active in providing the market pressure needed for more energy efficient products to emerge. More recently, the Chief Executive has announced in his Policy Address the Government's intention to grant a 30% concession on the first registration tax for vehicles with low emissions and high fuel efficiency. We also intend to give priority to such vehicles in replacing our own vehicle fleets in the future.  I am sure our private corporations would also be most willing to take advantage of the tax concession, and buy cars that can cut down the fuel costs and benefit the environment at the same time.

     The HKSAR Government has much experience to share on green procurement. I cannot cover it all but my colleague, Mr Raymond Fan, will give a fuller presentation later this morning. I think that listening to him will help bring home the importance that we, as a government, attach to green purchasing.

     But of course it is never enough for the Government to act alone.  Meaningful and effective environmental protection can only be achieved with the participation of the whole community. This is especially true for green purchasing. Fortunately we do have some very good examples of our private sector doing their bit to protect our environment. In fact, most of the sponsors today provide showcase examples, where green policy is firmly rooted in their corporate culture, and environmentally friendly materials are proactively used. I urge other corporations to follow their examples and make green purchasing part of their day-to-day operations as well.  

     On closing, I must thank the Green Council and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University once again for organising this important Congress. The Green Council is at the forefront in promotion of green purchasing in Hong Kong. Its Green Label Scheme and Cyber Green Centre together serve as a useful platform to exchange information on green products and match buyers with sellers. The Green Council has also played an important role in educating the public on the importance of environment protection through its Green Carnivals and various school programmes. I must congratulate the Council on a job very well done.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, we, as global citizens, must work together and do our utmost to preserve our precious resources and minimise waste. Green purchasing is one way we all can help to protect our environment. Collective purchasing power can be a huge force for change. Act now and buy green! Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, November 30, 2006
Issued at HKT 10:51