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2013 Policy Address by Chief Executive (5)

V. Environmental Protection and Conservation

A Green, Healthy and Liveable City

133. Hong Kong has unparalleled natural endowments.  With better environmental conservation, Hong Kong can be the loveliest city in the world.  We boast successful co-existence of urban development and countryside and a rich diversity of fauna and flora.  Both shores of Victoria Harbour present a unique cityscape.  Our city has sophisticated infrastructure and convenient transportation systems: a half-hour ride will get us to beaches and country parks.

134. For the well-being of future generations, the Government and the community must commit to improving the environment.  To tackle key issues such as waste management and air quality requires us to make choices.  The community and the Government must both take responsibility for making the decisions.  To this end, we will engage the public in our discussion and foster co-operation among policy bureaux in introducing various environmental protection initiatives step by step.  We will set out clear objectives and a roadmap to achieve cleaner air, better fuel mix, energy conservation, emission reduction, resources recovery and nature conservation in a comprehensive and systematic manner.  These endeavours will turn Hong Kong into a healthy, low-carbon and resource-saving metropolis that is in harmony with nature.

Improving Air Quality

135. The Government's air quality policies are premised on protection of public health.  We strive to improve air quality on all fronts, through better co-ordination of relevant policies on environmental protection, energy, transport and planning, as well as co-operation with Guangdong.  Our target is to broadly achieve the new air quality objectives by 2020.  Over the past six months, we have made substantial progress, including setting the emission reduction targets with Guangdong for 2015 and 2020, and enacting legislation to further tighten the emission caps for power plants for the years beyond 2017.  Our next priority will be improving roadside air quality.

Phasing Out Old Diesel Commercial Vehicles

136. Diesel commercial vehicles are a major source of roadside air pollution in Hong Kong.  In 2012, the World Health Organisation warned that diesel engine exhaust fumes are carcinogenic.  In view of the lukewarm response to the voluntary incentive schemes introduced by the Government over the past few years, we must phase out old diesel commercial vehicles with greater financial incentives while putting in place more stringent regulatory measures.  To meet the 2015 and 2020 emission reduction targets, I propose setting aside $10 billion as subsidies to owners of over 80 000 heavily polluting pre-Euro and Euro I to III diesel commercial vehicles in order to progressively phase out these vehicles having regard to their pollution level.  The scheme will significantly reduce the overall emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides by 80% and 30% respectively.  We also propose to set a service life limit for newly registered diesel commercial vehicles at 15 years.

Green Transport

137. With the successive completion of a number of railway lines, the next seven years will be bumper years for railway development in Hong Kong.  This gives us a good opportunity to optimise our public transport systems and to reduce roadside air pollution.

138. We will help franchised buses, taxis and minibuses reduce their emissions through retrofitting or replacing catalytic converters for these vehicles where necessary in the coming two to three years.  In addition, the Government will continue to take the lead in using more electric vehicles, which have zero emission, and solicit participation from public bodies as well as leading enterprises.  For example, the Government has set aside funding for franchised bus companies to try out electric buses.  The Pilot Green Transport Fund is also subsidising the testing of electric taxis, coaches and goods vehicles.  I hope that green transport can be widely used in Hong Kong.

Bus Route Rationalisation

139. In parallel with railway development, we will review other land transport services and rationalise the functions and roles of various public transport modes.  At present, some bus routes overlap or are under-utilised.  Our review will proceed on the basis that bus services are a complementary means of public transport; we will explore ways to rationalise bus routing, enhance feeder service and improve interchange arrangements in order to reduce roadside pollution.

Vessel Emission Reduction

140. In 2011, marine vessels were the largest source of respirable suspended particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide.  In particular, the emissions of ocean-going vessels at berth accounted for about 40% of their total emissions within Hong Kong waters.  In September 2012, the Government launched an incentive scheme to encourage ocean-going vessels at berth to switch to low-sulphur diesel.  We are also considering bringing in new legislation to enforce the requirement of fuel switch at berth.  We plan to submit our proposal to this Council in the next legislative session following the completion of consultation with the maritime sector.  Meanwhile, we are stepping up our efforts with the Guangdong Provincial Government in exploring the feasibility of requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to low-sulphur diesel while berthing in Pearl River Delta ports.  Also, the first berth of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will be commissioned in the middle of this year.  We plan to seek funding approval from this Council to install on-shore power supply facilities for use by cruise vessels with such facilities.  This will enable cruise vessels to switch to electric power while berthing and hence minimise their impact on air quality.  We are also promoting the use of cleaner fuels among local vessels.  We have conducted relevant tests and consulted the relevant sector.

Waste Management

Resource Sustainability

141. In Hong Kong, the amount of solid waste per capita per day is way higher than that of other advanced cities in the region.  Our existing landfills will be full within seven years.  It is a looming crisis.  To address the problems, the Government will vigorously pursue a multi-pronged strategy.  We will focus on waste reduction at source, while progressively implementing Producer Responsibility Schemes and the polluter-pays principle to boost the recovery and recycle rates of resource materials.  On the other hand, with the use of the advanced Integrated Waste Management Facilities, we can turn waste into a resource.  This can also reduce waste and alleviate the pressure on landfills.  Expansion of landfills is an integral part of the overall strategy of waste management.  To make this basket of policies a success, all of us should play our part.

Reduction of Food Waste

142. Food waste imposes a heavy burden on our landfills as it accounts for about 40% of total waste disposed of in landfills.  In addition, odour from food waste creates nuisance to nearby residents.  The Government has recently launched the "Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign" to mobilise the public as well as the industrial and commercial sectors to reduce food waste.  We will build modern facilities in phases for recovery of organic waste so that it can be converted into energy, compost and other products.

Support for Recycling Industry

143. In my Manifesto, I proposed to promote vigorously the development of the recycling industry.  Since most of the recyclable materials are exported through the public cargo working area, the Government will consider identifying suitable berths for bidding by the recycling industry for their exclusive use so that there will be stable provision of export facilities.  We will consult the sector and stakeholders on the proposal.

Municipal Solid Waste Charging

144. According to the findings of a public consultation conducted by the Government early last year, the public generally supported the introduction of a quantity-based waste charging system.  To work out the implementation details and develop complementary measures, we have invited the Council for Sustainable Development, through its public engagement efforts, to devise a viable charging system jointly with members of the public.

Green Building

145. Buildings account for as much as 90% of Hong Kong's total electricity consumption.  Apart from our plan to develop Kowloon East into a low-carbon community, I have asked the Secretary for the Environment to lead an inter-departmental steering committee to promote green building.  The committee will strengthen the co-ordination among departments to formulate implementation strategies and action plans, while maintaining close dialogue and co-operation with the relevant sectors and stakeholders.

Ecological Conservation

146. The Government shares public concern about ecological conservation.  To take forward the Convention on Biological Diversity, we will consult the public in 2013 on the formulation of the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong.  We will also emphasise conservation of land and marine ecologies in major government policies.

147. To protect our marine ecosystem, the Government has prohibited trawling in Hong Kong waters.  We will also set up a $500 million sustainable fisheries development fund to help fishermen adopt a sustainable and high value-added operation mode, and subsidise relevant programmes and research so as to enhance the overall competitiveness of the industry.  Fishermen affected by the trawl ban will be among the beneficiaries.  We will also establish a committee composed of government officials and trade representatives to advise on the use of the fund and ensure that it will meet the actual needs of the fisheries industry.  The Secretary for Food and Health will announce the details in due course.

Water Quality of Victoria Harbour

148. With continuous improvement in the water quality of Victoria Harbour, we can better promote a water-friendly culture, and realise the amenity, leisure and tourism potential of the harbour and coastal areas.  Upon the completion of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 2A next year, the water quality of Victoria Harbour will see substantial improvement.  The Government will study ways to further enhance the water quality of the urban coastal waters.

Environment and Conservation Fund

149. Since its establishment in 1994, the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) has achieved remarkable success in engaging different sectors of the community in environmental protection and organised more than 3 900 environmental protection activities.  As a long-term commitment to environmental protection and conservation, I propose injecting $5 billion into the ECF so that investment returns of the fund can provide long-term and sustained support for green actions initiated by the community.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:41


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