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Speech by Secretary for the Environment at 2008 Eco Expo Asia (English only)

     Following is the speech by Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the joint opening ceremony of 2008 Eco Expo Asia this afternoon (October 28):

Fred, Ms Meng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to be invited to this opening ceremony.  I would like to congratulate the organisers of the Eco Expo Asia and its trade fairs for this marvellous event, which has brought together more than 560 exhibitors from about 20 countries and numerous buyers from all over the world.  I would also like to congratulate all exhibitors for your efforts to bring in innovative equipment, products and services to this event to make it a great success.

     The Eco Expo Asia is by itself an environmental trade fair.  There is, however, something much more than just doing business in this event.  We see here an amazing display of innovative and environment- friendly technologies, equipment and products, which help make production processes cleaner and our business sector more "eco-efficient".  Indeed, it is a growing world trend for businesses to adopt green and sustainable practices.  Enterprises and industrialists have an important role to play in bringing a greener and healthier life for all.
     In his recent Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced that we needed to work hand-in-hand with neighbouring areas to foster the development of an economy that is based on low energy consumption and low pollution in the Pearl River Delta Region.  To further strengthen our co-operation on environmental protection, we have reached a consensus with the Guangdong Provincial Government on jointly transforming the PRD Region into a green and quality living area under the principle of promoting environmental protection and sustainable development.  Our common goal is to enhance the appeal and competitiveness of the province and the region.  To achieve this goal, Hong Kong and Guangdong will work together in the areas of post-2010 emission reduction arrangements, the optimisation of the fuel mix for power generation, the development and wider use of renewable energy, vehicle emission reductions, enhanced conservation and greening, scientific research, as well as publicity and education.  All these will definitely provide business opportunities for eco-companies, like yourselves.

     To engage Hong Kong-owned factories in the PRD to adopt cleaner production technologies and practices, thereby reducing air pollution and enhancing energy efficiency, we launched a $93 million Cleaner Production Partnership Programme earlier this year to help about 1,500 Hong Kong factories in the PRD to adopt cleaner production through awareness promotion, on-site assessment of production processes, technology demonstration projects and verification of the effectiveness of improvement projects.  Furniture manufacturing and construction materials are among the eight targeted sectors to which the programme gives priority.
     "Cleaner production" often makes economic sense.  By adopting green technologies and management practices, factories can achieve more efficient production, optimising the use of material and energy resources and reducing pollution at source.  It reduces wastage and brings costs down. Pursuing cleaner production can actually lead to the development of better products and processes that in many cases are less costly than those they replace.  This is a win-win situation at its very best.

     We will be working closely with the environmental technology service providers under this programme, as the service providers have a vital role to play in providing the much needed technical services to the participating factories.  The programme can therefore also open up new opportunities for environmental technology and service industries.

     And this brings me to the point about policy support for cleaner production.  Under the 11th Five-year National Plan, emissions control and energy savings have become top priorities for China.  The Central Government has set itself a national goal of cutting 10% of energy consumption per unit of GDP and 20% of discharge of key pollutants between 2006 and 2010.

     This directive or the so-called "hard target" set by the Central Government is making a very noticeable impact on Guangdong.  High-polluting operations will be required to clean up their processes, failing which the only alternative would be to have their operations shut down.  Many manufacturing industries have therefore taken the route of restructuring or upgrading.  More and more factories are motivated to take up cleaner production.  This is certainly going to bring improvement to regional air quality, and presents opportunities for adoption of advance environment technologies.
     On the home front, to encourage Hong Kong companies, including those in the Pearl River Delta Region, to install and use environmental protection facilities, the Government introduced a number of financial incentives earlier this year.  A 100% tax deduction for capital expenditure on environmental protection machinery is now being provided, and the depreciation period for environmental protection installation is reduced from the usual 25 years to five years.  Any Hong Kong company in the Pearl River Delta that owns the eligible environmental protection facilities and uses them for the production of profits chargeable to Hong Kong profits tax would be entitled to these tax concessions.  

     To achieve sustainable development, we need to do more than re-engineer the production processes.  Equally important is the need to re-focus consumers' life-style and demands by changing their mind-set.  Greater integration of cleaner production with sustainable consumption practices is necessary.  Cleaner production and sustainable consumption must go hand in hand.  And we should all be encouraged to note that increasingly our consumers and businesses want to make green choices.
     Success in protecting and conserving our environment will require all members of the community to seek creative solutions and foster innovation.  Producers and consumers alike must be fully engaged and understand the power they have to make a difference in the environment we share.  Market forces can do magic.  I appeal to environmentally conscious buyers here to green your supply chains by exercising the influence of your buying powers and to partner with those suppliers who have shown their commitment in cleaner production.

     Economic growth and environmental protection now have a symbiotic relationship - they need each other, and in turn sustain each other.  To deliver a cleaner and more sustainable world, there is a need to encourage closer interaction and networking between eco-innovators, product suppliers and buyers.  The Eco Expo Asia and its trade fairs offer a useful platform for this kind of interaction to take place.  Let me again wish the trade fairs every success and our overseas visitors a most enjoyable stay in Hong Kong!

     Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Issued at HKT 16:02


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