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July 24th, 2008:

Hong Kong Factories Not Fleeing Dongguan

HK factories not fleeing Dongguan, says official

Chloe Lai in Dongguan – Updated on Jul 24, 2008 – SCMP

The Dongguan party secretary yesterday denied the city had seen an exodus of Hong Kong factories because of the unfavourable business environment created by the yuan’s rise, a new labour law which has added to their costs, and environmental charges.

Liu Zhigeng also denied suggestions that the authorities were forcing labour intensive, low-tech and highly polluting industries to leave. He said the number of new factories and the number of those either closing or moving was consistent with previous years.

“Over the years, there are always about 4,000 new factories setting up in Dongguan and some 700 either closing down or moving out,” he said.

“The number in the first half year is consistent with previous years. It is natural, businesses moving in and out.”

Speaking to a group of Hong Kong media representatives, the party chief said Dongguan had to upgrade industries to become high-end and environmentally friendly.

However, he stressed the city would rely on economic incentives rather than administrative measures to achieve the goal. “We will do it step by step. We will experiment by implementing a pilot scheme.”

Mr Liu also said the authorities were discussing operations upgrades with low-end and labour-intensive factories. Economic incentives include using 20 billion yuan (H$22.9 billion) to set up 34 sewage treatment plants and four incinerators to reduce environmental costs for the enterprises.

Officials have been ordered to improve their communications with Hong Kong and other enterprises and to cut government charges.

The party chief also said that since most of the Hong Kong enterprises were large-scale, they had not been badly hit by the unfavourable business environment.

Beijing Applauded For Clean-Up Effort To Soon

Beijing applauded for clean-up effort, then the haze floats back

Al Guo – Updated on Jul 24, 2008 – SCMP

Beijing’s air quality fell yesterday as environmental experts, Olympics officials and the mainland media applauded the city for its efforts to clean it up.

Beijing’s composite Air Pollution Index reached 89, following readings of between 50 and 60 on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the first three days of traffic restrictions.

According to the index, compiled by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, all but five remote suburbs in the city had air pollution levels higher than 80 yesterday, with a couple of districts registering up to 99. Any figure recorded above 100 is considered harmful to health.

Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Games executive director, was quoted by Xinhua yesterday as saying he had been pleasantly surprised to see the improvement of air quality in the past few days.

“I’m very surprised because I thought it would be different but it’s much better, much better. You don’t feel bad when you breathe, so it looks good,” Mr Felli said before the release of yesterday’s readings.

State media also praised the city’s efforts to curb air pollution in the past few days, saying Beijing could keep its promise to offer Olympic athletes clear air during the Games.

Xinhua published a chart that showed the capital was expected to have 256 clear days this year, compared with 246 last year, 241 in 2006 and just 100 in 1988.

But the official praise was not enough to eradicate doubts that even taking half of the city’s vehicles off the roads may not be enough to guarantee better air quality.

“Situations like this could happen even during the Olympic Games, but hopefully we will see air quality continue to improve as we probably need at least a week to 10 days to see the effects from this traffic restriction,” environment expert Zhu Tong said.

Mr Zhu said the rise in the index yesterday may have been caused by unfavourable weather conditions in Beijing.

IOC chief Jacques Rogge has warned that some endurance events at the Games may have to be rescheduled if air quality threatens the health of athletes.

For long-time residents of the city, yesterday’s air quality was still more or less acceptable, with some even feeling the air improved in the morning.

Mr Zhu said people could sense differences in air quality, which changed throughout the day.

But the final index was determined by calculating the average level of pollutants in the air during a 24-hour cycle, he said.

HSBC Insurance Helps Travellers Offset Their Pollution

Finance Asia – By Lara Wozniak, | 24 July 2008

The majority of Hong Kong people who travelled overseas in the past year took no action to address the negative impact of their trip. HSBC aims to change that.

Don’t know how to buy carbon credits to offset your jetting around the region? You’re not alone. But HSBC is offering an insurance policy plan that won’t break your bank and may help cut pollution in Hong Kong.

In a recent HSBC Insurance survey on green travel, 80% of Hong Kong travellers said they did not do anything to offset the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from their travel activities; even as 90% believed that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to the environment.

When asked about the reasons why they did not do anything, close to half (47%) said they were not aware of any carbon dioxide emissions-offsetting programmes or schemes; 24% did not care about offsetting; 16% did not know that travelling caused damage to the environment; and 13% could not afford the extra amount to pay for environmentally friendly products and services.

On average, the more than 500 respondents in the survey conducted by The University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme travelled 3.6 times during the past 12 months.

When asked about future plans to offset carbon dioxide emissions from travel, more than half (54%) said that they had no such plans, compared to 32% who answered in the affirmative.

“It appears that the concept of green travel has not caught on among the majority of Hong Kong people who travel,” says Jason Sadler, managing director for HSBC Insurance’s Hong Kong business. “It is alarming, especially as environmental protection and air quality have become priority concerns for the Hong Kong community. However, the survey also shows that a big part of this apathy is due to factors such as lack of awareness about their choices and high costs of going green.”

Of those who said they were willing to pay more for environmentally friendly travel products or services, the average amount that respondents would pay is HK$167 for every HK$1,000 spent on a single trip.

Not surprisingly, given HSBC was connected to the survey, it has a solution that uses Hong Kong technology and benefits the city – its Let’s Travel Green donation programme.

In this plan, 1% of the insurance premiums paid by customers who buy or renew single or multi-trip travel insurance policies from HSBC from now until June 2010, will be automatically donated to fund the use of ‘eco-blocks’ in the buildings and pavements of 10 non-profit organisations in Hong Kong.

HSBC Insurance says it will donate about HK$2 million on behalf of customers to this project. The ‘eco-block’ is a material invented by a team of researchers led by professor Poon Chi-sun of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and its Research Centre for Environmental Technology and Management.

Made from recycled glass and ash with a coating of titanium dioxide, the ‘eco-block’ has pollutant-busting properties that break down certain harmful chemicals in the air. Used as a paving andpartitioning material for buildings, streets and pavements, the ‘eco-block’ contributes to improved air quality by removing air pollutants emitted by cars, trains, airplanes and other vehicles.