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Opening remarks by SEN at special meeting of LegCo Finance Committee

     Following is the opening remarks by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, at the special meeting of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council today (April 1):


     I would like to brief Members on the part of the Estimates relating to the Environment Bureau (ENB) and the key focus of our work in the new financial year.

     Firstly, on allocation of more resources. The Government has been allocating more resources to environmental protection, and puts emphasis on better air quality, cleaner sea water and better management of solid waste, to enhance the quality of living of our community.  In this financial year, the total allocation to the ENB and departments in my portfolio is about $16.1 billion, which is 21 per cent or about $2.8 billion more than the revised estimate for 2013-14.

     Of the total allocation of $16.1 billion, about $6.8 billion is recurrent expenditure, up $900 million from the revised estimate for 2013-14.  The additional provision is mainly for meeting the operational costs of the newly completed sewage treatment facilities and District Cooling System; taking forward waste reduction and recycling initiatives such as operating Community Green Stations; managing surplus public fill for re-use and reviewing the regulatory framework for the electricity market.  As regards the number of posts in the ENB and the Environmental Protection Department, there will be an increase of 94 posts in 2014-15.

     The provision in 2014-15 for non-recurrent expenditure, capital account and cash flow for projects under Capital Works Reserve Fund is about $9.3 billion, representing an increase of about $1.9 billion over the revised estimate for 2013-14.  The increase is mainly for implementing the ex-gratia payment scheme to phase out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles and subsidising the trial of electric buses by franchised bus companies.  

     I will now give a brief outline of our work in several areas.

     Firstly, on waste management, we are taking forward a multi-pronged approach in waste management. We have set targets on waste reduction at source, Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign, clean recycling, turning waste to energy and improvements for more hygienic transportation and treatment of waste.

     On energy, we launched in March this year a three-month public consultation on the future fuel mix for electricity generation. You may have noticed in news reports that we have proposed two fuel mix options. I would not go into details here.

     Thirdly, on improving air quality, we are very concerned about air quality, and therefore our priority is to reduce roadside air pollution. I am most thankful for the support of LegCo earlier on for phasing out some 82 000 pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles by 2020.  We have launched on March 1 the ex-gratia payment scheme to assist the affected vehicle owners.

     Electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions.  Replacement of conventional vehicles with EVs can help improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  At present, the technology of EVs is still under development.  I thank LegCo for passing the resolution to extend the first registration tax waiver for EVs by three years to March 2017.  To strengthen the supporting infrastructure for EVs, we will launch a pilot scheme enabling suppliers of electric taxis to install quick chargers at car parks managed by the Transport Department.  This year will also see the addition of about 100 medium chargers in different districts.

     On improving harbour water quality, the major works of Stage 2A of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) at an estimated cost of $17.5 billion are expected to be completed by the end of this year.  All sewage from both sides of Victoria Harbour will be collected for treatment at the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works.  The water quality of Victoria Harbour will improve further. For the quality of the harbour's coastal waters to be further enhanced, we plan to carry out a consultancy study to work out practical options and a programme to improve the environment of waterfront areas by tackling near shore pollution, with the long-term objective of enhancing the water quality of harbour's coastal waters and the leisure and amenity value of the coastal areas of Victoria Harbour.  We will consult stakeholders in the next few months on the consultancy study and seek funding approval from LegCo next year.

     To conclude, Chairman, the Government has spared no efforts in protecting the environment and building a green community to achieve a better quality of living for all.  We look forward to joining hands with different sectors of the community, including the LegCo to meet the environmental challenges of Hong Kong together.  

     Chairman, my colleagues and I would be pleased to answer Members' questions.

     Thank you, Chairman.

Ends/Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:15


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