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Red tides in Hong Kong flag failings of small-house policy and officials in denial

The report on the causes of recent red tides by the University of Hong Kong (“Seeing red over algal blooms”, July 30), highlights the woeful performance of the government in controlling marine pollution.

A major source of pollution is sewage from New Territories houses. Houses constructed under the small-house policy are exempted from building regulations and often have individual septic tanks.

Many village houses are part of large development plans, masterminded by developers and the Heung Yee Kuk, which are a blatant abuse of the small-house policy. Fake farming activities are often used to “condition” land before submitting building applications. Despite often being part of a coordinated development plan, house applications are treated individually. Planning authorities do not assess the cumulative impact of siting numerous septic tanks close to environmentally sensitive waters.

There are no plans to extend mains sewage to most New Territories villages and the government refuses to consider environmentally friendly sewage treatment plants for villages.

The Environmental Protection Department’s guidance material for constructing septic tanks is, by its own admission, incomplete.

The material is way behind international best practice, offering no protection to coastlines other than where there is a gazetted beach. Rules in the Water Pollution Control Ordinance, designed to protect Sites of Special Scientific Interest, mariculture sites and marinas, are ignored. The Lands Department, which processes individual house applications, uses its own document, which was agreed at a secret meeting between the Environmental Protection and Lands departments in 2009. It further waters down the regulations, for instance, removing the need to assess the suitability of soil conditions for septic tanks in many cases.

Monitoring water quality is haphazard and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is incapable of measuring the minute quantities of pesticides which can be extremely toxic to marine life.

The main function of water quality monitoring appears to be to enable the Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation departments to tell everyone that there is no problem. The government lives in a state of denial of serious marine pollution problems.

The unaccountable, incompetent, complacent and uncaring bureaucrats who are in charge of Hong Kong’s environment will not be happy until the land is covered in concrete and the seas filled with plastic, human excrement and chemicals. So much for Hong Kong’s commitment to the Convention on Biodiversity. Compliance is a cosmetic farce.

David Newbery, Sai Kung

Nanjing ends waste incineration project

The eastern city of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, has put an end to a controversial waste incineration project following public uproar.

The government of Nanjing’s Liuhe District announced on Thursday that it will stop the incineration project after widespread public disapproval. A scheduled public consultation on Thursday was subsequently canceled.

The announcement received a lukewarm, or even hostile, reception online with many netizens saying that they are not against the incineration plant, but rather where it is built, and whether it will operate in accordance with rules to avoid pollution.

Zhang Guoru, deputy head of the district’s urban management bureau, said that there is currently only one incinerator in the district, which can dispose of about 150 tonnes of household garbage each day.

“As the district is developing fast, the amount of garbage has exceeded 380 tonnes every day, and is predicted to reach 500 tonnes per day in three years,” he said.

Incinerators are considered the most feasible and effective means of disposing of garbage, but pollution concerns have led to public protests.

In 2014, a planned waste incinerator in east China’s Zhejiang Province led to clashes with police.

Grand Hyatt Singapore’s effort in reducing waste production in Singapore

Grand Hyatt Singapore implements organic food waste management system, reducing waste production of the hotel and converts the waste into useable fertiliser.

The hotel received a grant of S$250,000 through the 3R (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) Fund for the installation and implementation of the system. The grant is calculated based on key outcomes such as the actual quantity of waste reduced or recycled.

The 3R Fund, created by the National Environmental Agency, is a co-funding scheme to encourage organisations to undertake waste minimisation and recycling projects.

This new organic food waste management system touches on the first and the third of the three focus points in Hyatt’s 2020 sustainability plans.

The installation and implementation system uses two individual systems that operate in sequence:

• an integrated food waste disposal system which extracts water, grinds and compacts food waste from the restaurants and event kitchens
• a ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ which then converts compacted food waste into pathogen-free organic fertiliser.

The ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ subsequently recycles the compacted food waste into organic fertiliser and this will be used only for the hotel’s landscaping purposes.

This innovative system enables the hotel to keep 100% of its organic food waste out of the city’s landfills – drastically reducing the property’s overall waste production and will be good for environment of the city.

The hotel said that this will also boost productivity and hygiene levels, as food waste will be transferred into the integrated in-feed stations located at various dishwashing and food preparation areas, and transported via the vacuum system into the centralised grinder and dewatering unit.

As a result, manpower is no longer required to physically move food waste into the waste compacters. About 55,000 trash bags will be saved each year, and this further contributes to the green efforts of this project which has an estimated payback period of less than 3 years.

This new waste recycling infrastructure saves Grand Hyatt Singapore approximately S$100,000 a year in food waste haulage fees and operational expenses. By eliminating the need for food waste haulage, the hotel will further reduce its carbon footprint.

Spearheaded by Executive Chef Lucas Glanville, this milestone achievement would also not have been possible without the dedication of Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Business Analyst Darrell Tan, Director of Engineering Ivan Leong, Stewarding Manager Vijay Sivarajah and the secretarial support of Anita Lukman.

Food waste is created in Singapore every single day from our food cycle – production, distribution, retail to consumption – and the wastage is huge and still looming to become a problem for the country.

According to the National Environment Agency, Singapore wasted approximately 790,000 tonnes of food in 2014 and it’s still looming to become a problem to the country.

Typically, food waste would go to a landfill where it would decompose, or it would go to an incinerator.

“The issue with landfills obviously is the emissions of landfill gas, which is basically methane. This is a very bad greenhouse gas – it is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide,” said Mr Edwin Khew, chairman of the Association of Sustainable Energy (SEAS)

At the present, burning food waste is Singapore’s primary method of waste disposal which uses enormous amounts of energy to do.

Singapore has only one landfill left – Semakau Landfill – and it is expected to run out of space if habits do not change.

It has been reported that Singapore’s landfill will run out of space between 2035 and 2045, if the nation continues to dispose of more than three million tonnes of rubbish a year.

The true cost of consumption: The EU’s Land Footprint

EU’s dependence on overseas agricultural land trampling the world

Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on farm land beyond its borders, creating inequalities and threatening both the environment and rural communities, according to a new report released today by Friends of the Earth Europe.

The report reveals that the European Union requires almost 270 million hectares of agricultural land – known as Europe’s ‘Land Footprint’ – to sustain its unsustainable food production and agricultural practices. Almost 40% of this land is outside Europe, an area the size of Italy and France combined [1].

Meadhbh Bolger, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Overconsumption is eating up ever more land, often with disastrous consequences. It is unjust, irresponsible and unsustainable that we continue to use more than our fair share of global land and are shifting more than one-third of the impacts related to land consumption to ecosystems and communities outside of the EU. It is vital that the EU take steps to measure and reduce Europe’s Land Footprint.”


The report also reveals the knock-on impacts of over-reliance on imported animal feed and year-round seasonal goods, and surging demand for vegetable oils, particularly those for non-food uses such as biofuel – with a 34% increase in cropland consumed from outside the EU since 1990. Animal products like meat and dairy account for over 70% of the overall land requirements, and non-food crops like biofuels are linked to negative social impacts on local communities and environmental impacts, including forest loss.

Stanka Becheva, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “To reduce our inequitable footprint we need a radical overhaul in how and where we use land. Industrialised agriculture and global food chains are swallowing up land across the globe, damaging the environment and rural communities. We rapidly need a just transition to a greener way of farming that works for all people and the planet.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to reduce its land footprint, and the associated harmful impacts, ensuring that our use of land is environmentally sustainable and socially just.


This can be achieved by implementing a system for measuring, monitoring and reducing Europe’s land footprint, especially in the areas of bio-economy, circular economy and sustainability policies. Providing incentives that encourage a reduction in the consumption of land intensive products or products that embody relatively high environmental impacts like animal products will also drastically reduce Europe’s land footprint, according to the organisation.


[1] The “Land Footprint” as referred to above, and in the report, refers to agricultural land only (cropland and grassland). Due to current data limitations, EU-wide Land Footprints for non-agricultural products are not possible to calculate.

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Why a new third runway at the airport will offer little benefit to Hong Kong

Kai Tak, Hong Kong’s first international airport, had a fearsome reputation. Nestled on the western side of Kowloon bay and just south of significant mountains, an approach to the South-Easterly runway was not for the faint-hearted and many airlines entrusted the task only to Captains.

Known to regular flyers as the ‘Kai Tak Heart Attack’, an instrument approach guided aircraft directly towards Lion’s Rock, the procedure demanding a 50 degree turn at low level to seemingly glide between residential towers and onto the tarmac. Another few minutes straight ahead and the cockpit would come alive with flashing lights and bleepers going off for imminent terrain contact.

Whilst an aircraft spotter’s dream, the location had very real limitations including no ability to land in low visibility in one direction. This necessitated a move to its current location, Chek Lap Kok, where a pair of parallel runways clear of obstructions and terrain allow the most limiting of approaches and in almost any weather condition.

But Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), once considered as having ample capacity, has since become dwarfed by concrete monsters like Amsterdam Schiphol and Chicago O’Hare, where upwards of five runways allow more than one hundred aircraft to land every hour. Movements, which describe both take offs and landings, measure the pulse of high-performing airports. They indicate efficiency, capacity, and effects of delays, but are eventually limited by the fairly reasonable safety precaution that aircraft can only be packed so close together until they become a hazard. In most cases, this actually means 3 nautical miles on the final approach – which, although safe, leaves little room for mistakes or a myriad of real-world contingencies.

In 2008, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) decided it was time to expand and commissioned a series of reports to draw up a ‘masterplan’ for the airport.

The UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) was asked to investigate ways of further developing the airport. The two phases of reports made recommendations for Air Traffic Control (ATC) operational improvements and investigated airport designs. Starting with 16 options, these were eventually narrowed down to three possible ones, all of which represented variations on a third parallel runway. NATS identified that, staying with the current architecture, HKIA would be constrained to 68 movements per hour, but by adding a third runway this could increase overall movement capacity to over one hundred.

However, pinning down the exact financial benefit is tricky – measuring direct and even indirect revenue made by the airlines and airport business may be straightforward, but the subject soon becomes muddy when extrapolating value added by tourism, trade and business development.

An economic impact study commissioned by HKIA made the most complete assessment and found that the combined direct, indirect, and induced value-added impact of aviation-related businesses in Hong Kong and non-aviation businesses at HKIA was HK$77,587 million in 2008, equivalent to 4.6 percent of Hong Kong’s GDP. The study then modelled three scenarios including maintaining the status quo, optimisation of the two runway system and building of a third runway. The status quo remained competitive until 2015 whilst optimisation becomes constrained by projected demand in 2020. The third runway system was forecast to increase value-added by HK$167,472 million and maintain its present contribution to the GDP.


City states are uniquely bonded to aviation and none more so than Hong Kong, whose history has been so much augmented by air travel. Too often though, construction and bolstering infrastructure seem to be ready answers offered up a little too freely. There is no doubt that development of the airport would add to its capacity, but movements don’t necessarily represent the full picture.

Compared to even a couple of decades ago, modern aircraft are able to carry phenomenal numbers of passengers and cargo, yet the International Air Transport Association recently found that, in the year leading up to April, Asia-Pacific passenger aircraft were flying at an average load factor of 77.3% – that means more than a staggering fifth of seats are going empty. That’s not to mention that between 2am and 6am, an average of only 9 aircraft depart from HKIA every hour. If airlines, or more precisely, paying customers were prepared to put up with anti-social timings, then capacity between these hours could almost treble.

During daylight, a third runway may allow for more movements, but whether these could be utilised is another matter. Airspace around Hong Kong is unique in being restricted by Chinese airspace to the North, both in terms of space and its vulnerability to mainland delays and air traffic flow control.

In June, FlightStats reported that HKIA had placed 37th out of all ‘global-hub airports’ with 34% of all flights experiencing delays longer than 15 minutes. Many were attributable to knock-on delays from the mainland, circumstances which Hong Kong’s ATC can do very little about and which have the potential to choke an airport, especially if movements were to increase by another 50%. Airlines may choose to reroute and avoid Chinese airspace but, for many destinations, the cost implication would be severe.


Still, there is a bigger question concerning Hong Kong’s middle-distant future. The Greater Pearl River Delta region presently has five international airports: Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. Last year more than 173 million passengers found themselves passing through one of these airports and even more can be expected as the area grows.

Over the next six years, rail and road infrastructure projects will begin unifying this area under the cunningly-named “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme, creating a super-city 26 times the size of Greater London. In this context, it seems doubtful that, geographically speaking, Hong Kong would be a preferred port of entry for this super-city, making any expansion of its airport unnecessary.

Whatever the future holds for Hong Kong, there’s a general feeling amongst the aviation community that this extra runway will add little benefit. Delays in June averaged 62 minutes – without addressing the direct causes by relaxing Chinese airspace and making significant changes to the ATC environment, this runway will find itself redundant. Air travel was once indispensable to Hong Kong. It lubricated trade and pumped life into business, but its importance is proportional to the territory’s isolation.

Times have changed. If money must be pumped into construction, it would be better spent establishing stronger links to the mainland – where the future, for better or worse, must lie.

Six EU countries have already met their 2030 climate targets

Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania won’t be required to cut emissions in transport or farming for 15 years

Six EU member states do not need to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport, waste, buildings and farming for 15 years.

That is the outcome of proposals for sharing efforts towards the bloc’s 2030 climate target, published on Wednesday.

The European Commission set targets for each country from a 2005 baseline, according to their relative wealth and capacity for making reductions. Many are grumbling the obligations are too onerous.

Yet Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania were already emitting less than their 2030 allocation in 2014, analysis shows.

“While some EU governments will argue that these targets are too stringent, the reality is they are very weak,” said Damien Morris of consultancy Futureproof.

“When you have China talking about peaking its emissions before 2030, it is only fair for EU countries to make absolute cuts.”

Analysis: Damien Morris

Analysis: Damien Morris

Member states fought fiercely to minimise their obligations towards the 2020 target, but as Climate Home reported, the EU passed its 2020 emissions target six years early.

Part of that can be attributed to an economic slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis. Clean energy and efficiency policies made an impact too, putting most countries on track to easily meet their contribution.

“It makes the bust-up on effort share back in 2009 seem like wasted effort in retrospect,” said Jonathan Gaventa, director at London-based think tank E3G.

Today, some countries are concerned they could be asked to increase their contribution if and when the UK leaves the bloc. The European Commission was silent on this point.

Analysts at Thompson Reuters Point Carbon calculate each would need to make an extra 1.1% reduction if Britain’s share were to be redistributed evenly, or 2% if only rich countries do more.

Debates on the impact of Brexit will look like “a storm in a tea-cup” in 10 years’ time, added Gaventa.

The fact that six countries are already overshooting their 2030 targets underlines this.

With the exception of Greece, they were not required to make absolute emissions cuts under the 2020 package. They did so anyway. How? Why? And can we expect that trend to continue or reverse?

Let’s look at each, in order of how much they are permitted to grow emissions by 2030.

Greece (14%)

Hit by a debt crisis and economic downturn since 2008, climate policy has not been top of the agenda for Greece. Its falling emissions reflect belt-tightening more than low carbon investment.

Still, it has a number of energy efficiency initiatives that have played a part. And if financial woes have closed down polluting industries, it does not follow that reintroducing them is the best route to prosperity.

EU-wide fuel standards are likely to clean up road transport irrespective of national policies. The islands have an incentive to embrace clean energy to reduce reliance on diesel imports.

Hungary (12%)

The first EU country to ratify the Paris Agreement, Hungary is adopting a climate-friendly stance under president Janos Ader.

Its economy has modernised considerably since the Soviet era, with brown industries giving way to higher tech export sectors.

An adviser to President Ader told Climate Home public concern about climate change was increasing and Hungary is not likely to regress, whatever its official target.

Croatia (8%)

As with Greece, a six-year recession played a large part in Croatia’s emission slump, hitting industry. The country made some gestures towards green policy in its bid for EU membership, clinched in 2013.

Its direction now is uncertain. An election is coming up in September, after the five-month-old coalition government collapsed.

In a win for environmental campaigners, a planned 500MW coal plant has been shelved. State-owned utility HEP last week opened its first solar-powered electric vehicle charging point.

Recycling rates are low but increasing, while there is untapped potential for energy efficiency.

Bulgaria (7%)

The official line is that Bulgaria will struggle to meet its targets, according to former environment minister Julian Popov. He disagrees.

It has the worst energy efficiency rating in the EU, he told Climate Home – and therefore plenty of room for improvement.

A programme to renovate crumbling Communist-era pre-fab buildings is working, said Popov. “There is no reason to expect some kind of energy intensive reindustrialisation of the country.”

Romania (3%)

Neighbouring Romania has a similar profile. Home to the EU’s largest onshore windfarm, it is cleaning up a coal-heavy electricity generation mix.

With the lowest car ownership rate in the EU, however, it could see increased demand push up transport emissions.

Portugal (2%)

It made headlines in May for running on 100% renewable power for four days in a row. Portugal is quietly forging ahead with clean energy, even as its economy stutters.

Indirectly, abundant clean power can help decarbonise transport and other sectors counted in the effort sharing decision. Portugal has more than 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations across 30 municipalities and aims to get 10% of energy used for transport from renewable sources by 2020.

“The expectations of economic recovery should not contradict a low carbon trajectory,” Francisco Ferreira of Porto-based NGO Zero told Climate Home.

“There are measures planned, specifically in transport sector, that will enable Portugal to take a pathway more consistent with the Paris Agreement.”

Who’s ruining ‘one country, two systems’?

Beijing has made it clear that it doesn’t want advocates of Hong Kong independence to run in the upcoming Legislative Council elections.

In a recent speech, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office of the central government in Hong Kong, asked if allowing independence advocates to run in the Legco polls or become members of the legislature is in line with the “one country, two systems” principle that governs China’s rule over the territory.

He said: “If Hong Kong independence advocates are allowed to turn the run-up to the Legco election into a process of proactive promotion of independence, or even allow them to enter Legco gloriously, does this comply with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, the Basic Law and the principle of the rule of law?

“Which direction would it take Hong Kong society toward? Is this a blessing or a curse for the city? This is not just a legal matter, but also a matter of right and wrong, bottom line and principle, and a matter that concerns the city’s direction of development.

“Everyone who is genuinely concerned about Hong Kong’s well-being should think deeply and be alert about this.”

His remarks came on the heels of a new requirement by the Electoral Affairs Commission for Legco candidates to sign a declaration of allegiance to the Basic Law and the Hong Kong SAR government, particularly its provision that the territory is under Chinese sovereignty.

By its very action of meddling in the political affairs of Hong Kong, Beijing is violating the “one China, two systems” principle.

While promoting the policy to show to the world that it is giving the territory a high degree of autonomy, Beijing has continued to play a leading role in the city’s political affairs.

It has been building its relationship with local organizations and communities to boost its influence in the grassroots.

While appearing to be a benevolent parent or guidance counsellor to the government, Beijing has virtually become the ruling party of Hong Kong.

It has been calling the shots since 1997. It has been dictating to Hong Kong officials what policies to pursue, what projects to undertake, and even who should be voted into office.

Under existing Hong Kong laws, any Hong Kong resident with sufficient nomination should be qualified to run as a candidate in any election.

There are no laws requiring candidates to pledge their allegiance to Beijing.

As such, any requirement that election candidates must pledge their loyalty to Beijing is an infusion of Chinese norms into Hong Kong’s political environment.

In fact, the Basic Law is meant to protect Hong Kong from direct intervention from China.

Article 22 states: “No department of the Central People’s Government and any province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.”

Of course, Hong Kong people respect Zhang’s right to speak out on the current political situation in Hong Kong.

But considering that he is the most senior official of the Chinese government in Hong Kong, he should be circumspect about the impact of his remarks, and see to it that they don’t raise doubts about Beijing’s implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle.

Beijing officials should understand that the emergence of individuals and groups advocating independence or self-determination resulted from their own failure to allow Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders through genuine universal suffrage.

These individuals and groups are presenting the concept of independence as an option to Hong Kong people, which is in line with the freedom of expression that they are supposed to continue to enjoy despite the change of sovereignty in 1997.

It is a principle that is being presented by certain candidates to the electorate, and whether that principle is acceptable to the people will depend on the results of the election.

These candidates should not be maligned and accused of pushing Hong Kong to disaster. It’s up to the Hong Kong people to discuss and determine whether the principles and concepts they advocate are acceptable or not.

In short, let the people decide.

In February, an independence advocate, Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous, secured 15 percent of the votes in the Legco by-election.

That’s a strong showing, and it reflects the people’s growing disenchantment with the way Beijing has been meddling in the affairs of Hong Kong.

They are attracted to the concept of independence because Beijing, through its loyalists in the SAR government, has failed to maintain a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong as promised under the Basic Law.

They think that after the 1997 handover, Hong Kong has remained under colonial rule, but the masters this time come from China.

Despite its promise, Beijing has failed to respect the uniqueness of Hong Kong and has been making efforts to turn it into a Chinese city.

The current SAR administration’s focus on participating in the Belt and Road initiative is but one example of this policy to integrate Hong Kong into China’s economic system, denying the territory the right to explore its options and build its own economic model.

But no matter how determined Beijing is in condemning pro-independence candidates and preventing them from winning seats in the legislature, the idea that they are fighting for will continue to grow unless the conditions that allowed it to germinate remain in place.

More runways are only the start: race to reclaim land in the Pearl River Delta is worrying

Johnny Wei says for a start, Hong Kong officials must work with their Shenzhen counterparts to coordinate plans for airport expansion in both cities, so as to minimise pressure on the marine environment

Hong Kong is not alone in wanting a three-runway system. Its neighbour Shenzhen is now preparing for an airport expansion, and this is posing a challenge for our cross-border coordination in at least one key aspect – the environment.

After several years of turnover growth, the Shenzhen Airport Group has just completed its second and last round of consultation for an environmental impact assessment for reclamation of 439 hectares of land, for the purpose of building a third runway. This reclamation is smaller in scale than the one proposed by Hong Kong for its own third runway (650 hectares). Regardless, the two reclamation projects are too close – only 32km apart – and are likely to threaten the habitat of the Chinese white dolphins, as well as compromise the water quality and long-term carrying capacity of the Pearl River Delta estuary.

As close observers of marine construction projects and their cumulative impact, we are alarmed by this unprecedented estuary-wide “reclamation contest”. Shenzhen airport’s ambition accounts for only a quarter of the near-term reclamation, or equivalent to a mere 8 per cent of the sea-to-land conversion blueprint of the special economic zone. Other cities including Zhuhai ( 珠海 ), Huizhou (惠州) and Guangzhou all have their own greedy plan of “asking for land” from the waters.

We’re not even counting the massive reclamation for the bridge connecting Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau, or the 350 hectares reserved for Macau’s new town development.

The question is: where is the limit of reclamation?

Several procedures must be completed before Shenzhen airport can break ground for its expansion. These include disclosure of the environmental impact assessment report, a public hearing, submission for state-level approval and an assessment of social stability risk.

We don’t know how long these proceedings will take, nor how much of Hongkongers’ concerns will be taken into account. There’s a good chance Shenzhen’s third-runway construction will overlap with Hong Kong’s, and this will exert greater pressure on seawater quality.

We don’t deny an airport plays a significant role for a city. The question is: where is the limit of reclamation and who may be qualified to set it?

A lack of coordinated environmental planning has long plagued the Pearl River Delta. The ties between the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments are mostly limited to economic collaboration, with little effort spent on cross-border environmental improvement.

We urge Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department to establish a communication channel with the Shenzhen Oceanic Administration and its Human Settlements and Environment Commission to obtain information on the anticipated expansion period of Shenzhen airport and its study of cumulative impacts. The two governments must work out a schedule that can protect the environment.

Pollution has no respect for borders, as shown by the recent rubbish surge in Lantau waters

Hong Kong should share with the Shenzhen authorities the lessons it learned about the negative impact of reclamation, and the use of its Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in limiting damage. Hong Kong went on a reclamation spree in the 1980s and 1990s. Shenzhen, where housing prices are at historical highs, now intends to boost its land supply in a similar approach but has little knowledge about the long-term costly payback.

Hong Kong must not shirk its regional responsibilities and must take part in delta initiatives such as the strategic environmental impact assessment inaugurated by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection last October. The assessment, led by Beijing with the involvement of Guangdong, was created to evaluate the overall carrying capacity of our delta and develop planning strategies for estuary conservation and pollution control.

Pollution has no respect for borders, as shown by the recent rubbish surge in Lantau waters. Unless it takes the initiative with the mainland, Hong Kong has no hope of improving its environmental quality.

Johnny Wei is co-founder of the CrossBorder Environment Concern Association

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Methane Pollution Is About To See A Serious Cut From This Stinky Source

Last Friday, the EPA announced new rules that will cut landfills’ methane emissions by one third.

The latest regulation is an update to rules last updated over 20 years ago. They are expected to reduce methane emissions by around 334,000 tons a year in 2025. That is equivalent to reducing 8.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential over 25 times that of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. But over a 20 year period, it can be 86 times more potent. Methane is the second-most common greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, and nearly 20 percent of those emissions come from landfills.

The methane regulations update the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and, in a separate action, revise the Emissions Guidelines from 1996. These actions further implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and its “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.”

“The final NSPS and emission guidelines continue to cover MSW Landfill emissions (commonly known as landfill gas) as the regulated or designated pollutant,” the EPA told ThinkProgress in an email. “Non-methane organic compounds (NMOC) are measured as a surrogate for the listed pollutant.”

The EPA finalized details dealing with landfill gas treatment, owner and operator compliance, startup, shutdown, and malfunction issues.

Under the NSPS rule, new landfills — after July 17, 2014 — will have to install a gas collection control system if NMOCs exceed 34 metric tons per year. That number is one third less than the previous threshold of 50.

The control system may either route it to a non-enclosed flare, an enclosed combustion device, or a treatment system which can ultimately sell the methane as a source of energy. An estimated 128 landfills will be subjected to this rule, and of these, 115 will be required to install the controls in 2025. The remaining 13 will report their emissions.

The threshold also applies to landfills existing prior to July 17, 2014. An estimated 1,014 active existing landfills will be affected, with 731 controlling landfill gas in 2025. However, this is only 93 more than under the previous rules. Another 77 will be required to report their emissions, and over 200 landfills are either closed or expected to close within 13 months after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

The net cost of the emission guidelines — or the costs after subtracting the benefits — will be around $54 million in 2025. The climate benefits outweigh the total costs by a factor of eight. For every dollar spent to comply with guidelines, the expected benefit is over eight dollars. That adds up to $444 million in 2025.

The benefits from the rule that affects new landfills will be over 10 dollars for every dollar spent to comply. The costs are an estimated $6 million in 2025, while the benefits are $68.3 million.

Between both new rules, the EPA expects a total benefit of $512 million.

The climate benefits that were included in the calculations include human health impacts, property damages from flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services, and others, according to the final rules fact sheet.

The Obama administration has been ramping up its efforts to reduce methane emissions. In May, the EPA finalized new methane regulations for the oil and gas industry. Since then, North Dakota filed a lawsuit against the EPA over the rule.

Food waste is partly to blame for the methane pollution from landfills. The EPA’s rule noted that there is not enough information on how the regulations would affect how much waste is diverted to recycling, waste-to-energy facilities, or composting. While lowering methane emissions has clear climate benefits, avoiding wasted food and other organics would also contribute to reducing methane emissions. Around 40 percent of food grown in the United States ends up wasted.

“EPA acknowledged alternative approaches (such as diversion, composting, recycling, and waste-to-energy) at proposal and in its final rules as well as the Regulatory Impact Analysis (and other supplemental documents) for these actions,” the EPA added in an email to ThinkProgress. “EPA does not believe that its final actions preclude these activities.”

“Further the final rules specifically acknowledge that the use of alternative approaches, such as diversion, may increase as a result of the agency’s allowance of a site-specific approach to determining gas collection and control system installation.”

In addition to efforts to decrease methane emissions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA announced last September a goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Sydney Pereira is an intern with ThinkProgress.

Yawning gap between the legislature Hong Kong needs, and the one it has

Alice Wu says with the current Legco session now ended, we should look closely at the gap between members’ vows at the start of the year and their actual, woeful performance

Some Hong Kong lawmakers have a knack for turning lawmaking into a practice so alien that we feel completely discombobulated. Now that the legislative term has ended and we’ll be electing people to the sixth Legislative Council in six weeks, it’s time to revisit what legislatures are supposed to do.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws. And it is serious business, although some of our lawmakers do not seem to understand why their office carries the “honourable” prefix. The man at the centre of the filibuster on the medical reform bill, the “Honourable” Leung Ka-lau, a medical doctor, has proudly admitted many a time that lawmaking is just his “part-time job”. Surely, the dignity of the legislature is tarnished not only by flying objects; it is attitudes like this – that Legco business is not worth more than perfunctory attention – that is damaging. With his abysmal attendance record, one wonders why the good doctor even bothered to show up at all, or why he ran for the seat in the first place.

The medical reform fiasco certainly made sure that the current term didn’t go out with a bang, and unfortunately, it exemplifies what the council has become. Too little deliberation goes on at this deliberative assembly. Or perhaps our lawmakers do not think talking to reach agreement is their duty. They much prefer to talk to stall. And judging by the time spent on filibustering this year, which has been reported to be twice as long as last year, our lawmakers really love the sound of their voices.

When the September polls come around, voters should consider the discrepancy between some lawmakers’ vow at the beginning of the legislative year to use moderation when it comes to filibustering, and the reality. Filibustering that lasted twice as long is no moderation.

Another legislative “fetish” they seem to have developed is their love for roll-calling, or maybe it’s the sound of the quorum bells ringing. If people have compared them to unruly schoolchildren in the past, then I guess some of them have grown to love this identity. Perhaps the next Legislative Council would consider having members wear school uniforms to meetings. Cosplay may not be unparliamentary.

It’s almost unfathomable today that 20 years ago, “foul grass grows out of a foul ditch” was ruled offensive language inappropriate for use in the chamber. Indeed, times have changed. One lawmaker – also on the list of legislators with poor attendance – used the very little time he spends inside the chamber to showcase his obnoxiousness.

Among the things he will be remembered for is the Cantonese term that literally means “stumbling on the street” but is often translated as “drop dead”. Thanks to him, the term made it into Legco’s official record for expressions ruled unparliamentary. A total class act.

The Legco Public Accounts Committee has recently expressed “grave concern” over the HK$172 million in lost government revenue that the government has not been able to collect in rates and rents. It is certainly a matter that deserves public concern, but lest they forget, a lawmaker did actually call for Hongkongers to not pay their rates and government rents as a legitimate form of protest. Technically, a member of the council encouraged this sort of behaviour, but now the council expresses “grave concern”?

HK$172 million is not chump change, but neither is the HK$771.3 million spent on running the legislature for 2015-16. By this paper’s latest count (July 8), lawmakers have so far spent 108 hours on quorum counts for the 2015-16 legislative year alone. It is disgusting that our lawmakers spent as much time counting heads as firefighters did in fighting the deadly Ngau Tau Kok inferno.

If we consider the homeless shelter that the council recently rejected, we would see that it’s not simply delaying tactics that our lawmakers love. The project has been on the table for almost four years, and plans have been revised to address issues lawmakers had initially objected to. It was endorsed by the public works subcommittee before it was sabotaged.

Our legislators like to say they act for “the people”. As “the people”, it is time that we hold them to account.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA


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