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Speech by Secretary for the Environment (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Opening Ceremony of the 40th Joint School Science Exhibition today (August 25):

Chairman James Mak, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Students,

     It is indeed my honour to be invited to speak at this occasion -- the 40th Joint School Science Exhibition.  Please let me convey my heartfelt congratulations to all the winners of this year's Proposal Competition.  You have all shown tremendous talent, creativity and environmental vision.  I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all participating schools for your efforts and contribution to this Exhibition.  I am deeply impressed and enlightened by every scientific invention on display in the venue. I am sure you all feel the same way when you visit the exhibition.

     This year, the Joint School Science Exhibition Preparatory Committee has chosen "Scientific Solutions for the Green Revolution" as the theme to celebrate its 40th anniversary. What an exciting and timely theme! As Secretary for the Environment, I am particularly glad that the young leaders in Hong Kong have shown such enthusiasm in taking the lead to mobilise your peers to act green.  Indeed, you have done a wonderful job in encouraging your fellow students to merge scientific theories with environmental considerations in designing your products.  The inventions by our young scientists vividly show how we together can draw ever-growing benefits from science, including the enhancement of our environment.  

     There is no doubt whatsoever that technology has greatly enhanced productivity in the recent history of civilisation. The resulting economic development has improved the lives of billions of people around the world. But it is also a hard fact that economic activities can also generate negative or undesirable impact on our environment. Take global warming for instance. It is partly caused by the excessive emission of greenhouse gases, which in turn sets off a chain of undesirable consequences. We all know and accept that global warming is no longer a myth.  That is why many governments, including ours, have made it a priority to find ways to cut emissions.

     It has been a long-time mission of our government to maintain Hong Kong as an international city with good quality environment. To this end, the Government has, over the years, implemented a series of measures to reduce air pollution, treat urban sewage, improve water quality and protect our natural habitats.

     The Government's determination and hard work have started to bear fruit, but some of you may have been occasionally disappointed by the polluted air that sometimes hides our famed Victoria Harbour skyline. Part of our air pollutants come from local sources like power generation and vehicular traffic, and part of it comes from the Pearl River Delta Region, including industrial emissions. Policies are well in place to use a mixture of legislation and incentives to phase out vehicles that pollute, and to impose emission caps on our power generation.  We are also working hand in hand with our counterparts in the Mainland to combat regional air pollution. We have no doubt seen some early results, but as the number of blue sky days gradually picks up, there is no complacency and we must take an extra step in all fronts. In fact every single act counts.

     Apart from air pollution, Hong Kong also has an acute waste problem.  It is hard to imagine, but it is also a hard fact that over 6 million tonnes of waste are disposed of in our landfills each year.  If the waste load continues to grow at this rate, our landfills will run out of space in less than 10 years.  To tackle the waste problem, the Government has formulated a policy framework of measures that address every stage of waste generation and disposal.  For instance, we propose to introduce Producer Responsibility Schemes under which manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers, will be held responsible for the proper management of specific products at every stage. Also in line with the "polluter pays" principle, we propose to introduce an environmental levy to discourage the indiscriminate use of plastic shopping bags at source.

     Our efforts in tackling air pollution and the waste problem will not pay off without your support.  As responsible citizens, it is better late than never for us to start building up green habits and a new lifestyle that conserve energy and minimise waste production or generation.  It is only by pulling our weight together that we can win in this battle to improve our environment.  

     Getting people to change their mindset and adopt greener habits is not as difficult as we think and today¡¦s exhibition shows how creative ideas by our young leaders can make everyday life greener. We recognise that and we will need to convince the public that the environment is our common asset and every citizen has a responsibility to preserve it.  Only with this sense of shared responsibility can we hope to achieve a sustainable environment not just for ourselves but also for our generations to come.

     Let me conclude by making an appeal to all of us to show determination in safeguarding our environment and to encourage others to continue this "green revolution".  May I once again congratulate James and your team for making today¡¦s event such a success. Thank you.

Ends/Saturday, August 25, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:40


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