Policy Address: Carrie Lam, Lover of earth, seas and “every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

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By Chermaine Lee

The UN governmental Panel on Climate Change said earlier this week that the Earth would reach the threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030. Scientists warn of risks of extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, and food shortages, suggesting green policies are to be taken seriously.

In the Policy Address 2018-2019 announced on Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam has given a relatively small portion to the topic of environment and nature conservation. But one policy in particular, “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” which involves a reclamation project and the creation of artificial islands, has triggered strong opposition from green groups.

A total of nine conservation NGOs in the city demonstrated on Wednesday, protesting against the government’s suggestion of exploiting country parks and the overall reclamation project.

Andy Chu, project manager at environmental organization Greenpeace, says, “The government fails to use the existing land…it seeks to exploit new country parks without reasons. Greenpeace has collected about 52,000 signatures from residents during public consultation of land supply, urging for better use of brownfield and protection of the countryside.”

In her Policy Address, Mrs Lam says the government plans to improve air quality by tightening the emission standards for newly registered motorcycles to Euro IV in 2020 and introducing a scheme to phase out Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles by the end of 2023.

The government also plans to implement a Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) charge that aims to encourage the public to reduce waste and boost recycling. It will soon introduce an amendment bill as well. Up to HK$400 million will be allocated to waste reduction and recycling in the next fiscal year.

Clean up this dirty town

Mrs Lam also announces a study on controlling or banning disposable plastic tableware but does not specify any timetable for the implementation. She says the government will also establish a platform for cleaning shorelines to protect the marine environment.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) suggests the government to tackle marine litter at its source.

“The government needs to develop strategies to intercept marine litter at rivers and storm drains with innovative measures, as well as enhance waste reduction and recycling in coastal areas to prevent pollution to the marine environment. The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments should collaborate further to tackle the litter sources especially along the Pearl River,” the WWF says in response to Harbour Times’ queries.

Energetic policy

Regarding energy, the Policy Address mentions relaxing the restrictions on installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the rooftops in the New Territories and other private buildings. It also plans to introduce PV panels in reservoirs and landfills. The District Cooling System in Kai Tak is expected to complete in 2025, potentially reaching annual saving in electricity consumption of 85 million kW/hr.

However, the WWF thinks the current target of cutting 5 percent of electricity consumption is not enough.

“The government needs to set an aggressive target for renewable energy of 10% by 2030 and strengthen policies to enhance building energy efficiency, together with the support of environmental financing,” says the organisation.

Finally, Mrs Lam says she will carry out a public consultation in 2019 to explore raising penalties for acts of cruelty to animals. An “Animal Watchers” scheme will also be implemented next fiscal year to curb cruelty to animals in the city further.

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