The Daily Telegraph 31 Oct. 2011
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Green Groups, Air Pollution, Global Warming, Diesel, Idling Engines, Town Planning & More!
The Daily Telegraph 31 Oct. 2011
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South China Morning Post – 29 Oct 2011
The mainland’s aviation industry is expected to inject as much as US$300 million over the next four years to expand its supply of biofuels, says a senior executive at American aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
Billy Glover, vice-president of environment and aviation policy, said the industry would need a full-scale refinery operation – costing US$200 million to US$300 million – by 2015 in order to meet the global target of replacing 1 per cent of individual countries’ annual jet fuel usage with biofuels.
The two-hour flight around Beijing by an Air China 747 jumbo jet was a milestone in a partnership formed by the airline, Boeing andPetroChina(SEHK: 0857, announcements, news) earlier this year to research and develop a biofuels supply chain on the mainland.
“The mainland carriers have a really strong role not only in signalling their interests in buying the fuel, but also in demonstration use and other aspects that help producers and refiners to make the commercial go-ahead decision,” Glover said.
Fuel suppliers, airlines and the Chines government are expected to share the costs of the project. Glover said other mainland airlines, besides Air China, had expressed interest in becoming biofuels buyers or developing the supply chain.
The 10,000 tonnes of biofuels used in yesterday’s test flight – produced from jatropha seeds by PetroChina – currently cost twice as much as kerosene, the traditional aviation fuel, and are yet to be economical viable for commercial operations.
However, prices of biofuels are expected to decline with the development of a supply chain. Shen Diancheng, a PetroChina vice-president, told Xinhua yesterday that his company had planted 80,000 hectares of jatropha trees on wastelands in the mountains and hills in Yunnan, Sichuan and Jiangxi provinces.
That is enough to produce 60,000 tonnes (54.5 million litres) of biofuel by the end of 2014. The amount, however, is only about 2.4 per cent of the world’s target capacity of 2.27 billion litres. However, Shen said there were about 800 million mu (53.4 million hectares) of barren hills on the mainland suitable for growing jatropha seeds.
Algae – another promising feedstock that could yield 15 times more oil than other crops – had also emerged from the laboratory recently and test planting had begun in Pingdu, Qingdao, Glover said.
Air China is expected to launch another test flight across the Pacific Ocean to a North American city in the next few months.
Airlines around the world are scrambling to find cleaner and more sustainable fuels to replace fossil fuels in a bid to fight global warming, as well as stricter emission caps.
South China Morning Post – 26 Oct 2011
Those concerned with Hong Kong’s awful roadside pollution may have been heartened by the chief executive’s undertaking on RTHK last week to implement the territory’s long delayed new air quality objectives (AQOs).
AQOs are supposed to be the benchmark for an acceptable level of air quality. Hong Kong’s current AQOs were established in 1987 and are now hopelessly outdated, but the Environment Bureau nevertheless continues with its daily farce of producing an air pollution index based on these AQOs, which are way below World Health Organisation guidelines.
So when the bureau says roadside pollution is “severe” or very high – as it frequently is – you can assume the level is horrendous.
When the chief executive was questioned last week by Erica Chan Fong-ying, Clean Air Network (CAN) spokesperson, about the delay in implementing new AQOs for Hong Kong, he said they would be introduced in the Legislative Council for discussion before the end of this year. “I hope that the law will be enacted, and I will try my very best to have them enacted, by the end of my term of office,” said Tsang, who steps down in June next year.
However, these appear to be weasel words since, according to an e-mail from CAN, they differ significantly from what Legco-member Audrey Eu Yuet-mee was told during a meeting with the bureau. She says she was told by Anissa Wong Sean-yee, permanent secretary for the environment, that the AQOs will not be discussed until “the second half of next year”.
In an e-mail from Eu to CAN, she wrote, “In other words [new AQOs will not be introduced] within this Legco term. I asked whether there was any legislative slot for new AQOs and the answer was, no.”
CAN comments in its e-mail, “Empty and disingenuous words appear to be an ingrained habit of the chief executive,” while noting that two years have passed since the government proposed new AQOs to the public for consultation.
The government was criticised by the Ombudsman in May for dragging its feet in implementing new AQOs, and Tsang promised then that new AQOs would be in place by the end of the year. That promise looks hollower by the day.
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South China Morning Post – 26 Oct. 2011
Little is known about the way in which political parties are financed in Hong Kong. But some light has now been shed as a result of the leaking of documents said to detail donations made by media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying to the pro-democracy camp.
According to the documents, Lai gave more than HK$28 million in total to the Democratic Party and the Civic Party over the past few years, making him the single biggest donor to the democrats. He is entitled to make such donations and is one of many wealthy people in Hong Kong who provide funding for a variety of causes.But the revelation has reignited the debate about whether political parties should be more transparent and accountable. Hong Kong still lacks a law which would put political parties on a firmer footing. This would provide for better regulation and also help their development.
At present, political parties are registered as companies under the Companies Ordinance. The fact that there is no law governing the limits and disclosure of political donations outside of elections gives the parties maximum flexibility. This was, perhaps, helpful while Hong Kong was in the early stages of political party development, but the lack of regulation and transparency has given rise to worries that recipients, whichever camp they belong to, may be subject to manipulation.
Beijing’s hostility towards the pro-democracy camp may have made the rich and famous more wary about being seen to openly back the parties regarded as being in opposition. There are reasons to believe that donors may be scared away if they cannot remain anonymous. That Lai’s contribution accounted for the lion’s share of the two parties’ funding underlines the difficulties they have in reaching out to a broader spectrum of supporters. The leading pro-Beijing party, the DAB, however, does not seem to have encountered any difficulties in seeking donations. It received over HK$48 million in 2009-10. But it is equally reluctant to identify its donors.
The government rejected having a party law five years ago. One of the reasons given was that political parties are still in a relatively early stage of development. But the political landscape has since changed tremendously. For the first time, the implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive and Legislative Council elections has been given a clear timetable. There are more ministers with a party background, while more parties have been formed in recent years. Political parties should be playing a more important role in governance as we move towards universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020. It is difficult to see how Hong Kong can carry on without a law to help parties better develop. The lack of legal recognition for parties means they are in a legal grey area. Legislation can provide the standing for parties to develop – and bring their finances out into the open.
South China Morning Post – 26 Oct 2011
The legal challenge to construction of a bridge across the Pearl River estuary to Macau and Zhuhai is over.
Yesterday’s deadline for the plaintiff, 66-year-old Tung Chung resident Chu Yee-wah, to take the case to the city’s top court passed without her lawyers receiving any instruction to do so.
Chu, a public housing tenant, secured a judicial review of the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau bridge, arguing that the government’s environmental impact assessment of the project failed to meet its own standards for gauging the likely effect on local pollution levels. Her lawyers said the assessment should have included a study of the estuary environment’s condition if the HK$83 billion bridge was not built. The bridge will start from a point on Lantau island near Tung Chung.
The case was upheld in the Court of First Instance but overturned on appeal by the government in September. It cost the Legal Aid department HK$1.4 million and added an estimated HK$6.5 billion to the cost of building the bridge, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau.
Alan Wong Hok-ming, a lawyer for Chu, said he had heard nothing from her before yesterday’s deadline. “We have told her the legal considerations in the case and it was up to her to decide,” he said.
Chu had been quoted as saying that she regretted launching the challenge.
The government will now be able to press ahead with the project.
An environmentalist said the case had raised public awareness of the complex assessment process and opened an avenue for a review of the law. “The judicial review arose from some grey areas in the law that have to be looked at from a bigger perspective, given that the impact assessment law has been in operation for more than 13 years,” Edwin Lau Che-feng, a member of the Advisory Council on the Environment, said.
The council wants a meeting of experts in the field to identify areas for improvement, in particular how to increase transparency and public participation in assessments.
Lawmakers will now discuss a request from the government for funding to build the bridge and related works. Officials have put the cost of a border post, to be built on 130 hectares reclaimed from the sea, at HK$33 billion and say a link road will cost HK$16 billion.
The bridge was not the only project affected by April’s ruling in favour of Chu. Environmental impact assessment reports on a planned waste incinerator and the Sha Tin-Central rail link have been submitted to the environment chief for reconsideration.
South China Morning Post – 24 Oct. 2011
As airlines mull their options after a European Court upheld the European Union’s carbon tax scheme, Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293) says it is pinning its hopes on biofuels. It says biofuels could be the answer not just to tighter emission requirements but, eventually, as a fuel much cheaper than kerosene, when production is scaled up significantly.
While it could take two decades before biofuels trade at half the price of kerosene, Cathay said both fuels should trade at the same price by the end of this decade, given the rapid development of alternative energy sources in the past few years.
The airline is considering developing a biofuels supply chain in Asia for itself and its subsidiary Dragonair.
“If you look at the real cost of growing the [biofuels] feedstock, refining it and transporting it, there is a real good possibility that it could cost 30 to 50 per cent less than today’s jet fuel,” Cathay fuel purchasing head Gavin Fernandez said. “If we are involved in production, and we reach a good scale, I don’t see why the savings cannot go over 50 per cent or even more.”
Fuel accounts for more than 35 per cent of Cathay’s operating expenses. Cutting that cost in half means the airline could save more than HK$14 billion a year, based on the airline’s figures for last year.
Fernandez (pictured) said that although most of the savings were likely to be offset by the cost of carbon credits under the EU’s new emission scheme, as well as investments in biofuels facilities, passengers would also benefit.
“The airline business is one of the most competitive businesses,” he said. “The margins are so small, and others will undercut you as soon as they can with cheaper fuels, cheaper tickets. The travelling public will be one of the first consumer groups to get a price advantage.”
Last Thursday, three US airlines lost a lawsuit against a new EU regulation, which requires all airlines entering European airspace to buy carbon credits if they fail to meet a new emission cap that takes effect in January. The cap will be tightened annually.
Cathay – with almost 20 per cent of its flights in Europe last year – stands to lose the most among Hong Kong’s airlines. Apart from volatile oil prices, the new emission scheme gives airlines another reason to accelerate the commercialisation of cleaner fuels.
Instead of simply launching a research and development joint-venture project on biofuels, Fernandez said Cathay was looking at a larger commitment. That would include the production of feedstock, refining, oil storage and fuel transport to its base in the city for blending with kerosene.
Currently, airlines can only use a 50-50 blend of biofuels and kerosene on commercial and military aircraft.
“To get involved in growing [fuel crops] would cut the middleman out,” Fernandez said.
Apart from jatropha, camelina and algae – plants commonly considered as sources of aviation biofuels – Cathay is looking at a fourth option – a jungle plant that does not compete with any food crop.
If Cathay gets involved in upstream production, it could be a multibillion-dollar investment because a single refinery plant costs between US$300 million and US$500 million. The carrier will spend the next six months finalising its strategies and investment plans.
It is considering whether to invest only when the most promising feedstock emerges, or invest in less efficient feedstock along the way.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Airlines – in the midst of expansion – is taking a wait-and-see attitude towards biofuels. “We don’t have the means and resources of Cathay to develop our own supply chain, but of course when the technology is mature, we would love to use it on our planes,” said Eva Chan Yuen-kwan, the carrier’s spokeswoman.
Last month, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines began to apply used oil- derived biofuels on some 200 flights between Amsterdam and Paris.
South China Morning Post – 21 Oct 2011
Concerns have been raised that lawyers are abusing the legal process for personal gain by handling judicial reviews challenging government policies. These are serious allegations. Thankfully, there is no evidence to suggest that this is happening. Applications for legal aid are subject to rigorous scrutiny. The merits of each case are carefully examined. There is no reason to think that this screening mechanism is not effective. Moreover, legal fees under the scheme are capped. For that reason, the question posed by pro-government lawmaker Ip Kwok-him on whether there is any mechanism to stop lawyers making money out of legally aided judicial reviews is one which could be seen as a thinly veiled attack on judicial reviews and the independence of the judiciary, prompted by rulings against the administration. Most notable among them is the recent High Court ruling in favour of right of abode for domestic helpers, a case in which opponents feel they have considerable public support.
Thanks partly to legal aid, judicial reviews, many of them against the government, have indeed been a growth area of legal work. The number of applications for help with judicial reviews granted by the Legal Aid Department has risen from 20 out of 147 in 2001 to 93 out of 268 last year. That is a big increase, but not inconsistent with the trend in other common law jurisdictions. Judicial review is a fast-developing area of law. It acts as a brake on abuse of executive power by ensuring that the government operates within the law.
The helper’s abode case, which will be subject to appeal, is not the only politically contentious one. Pro-government politicians have questioned whether lawyers from the pro-democracy Civic Party made any gains from the judicial review of environmental approval that delayed a start on our side of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. This one was launched by a retired Tung Chung resident who said she was prompted by “unidentified parties”. The government has since successfully appealed. Concerns about the cost of the delay, which officials say will run into billions, are understandable. Both cases are controversial. But the court agreed to hear them and the government lost both in the first instance, so they cannot have been without merit.
Under Hong Kong’s rule of law an independent judiciary and equality before the law are fundamental principles. Judicial review is a means by which anyone can challenge actions of government they contend are unconstitutional and legal aid is a means by which people of limited means can have equal access to justice.
Any suggestion that lawyers are abusing the process to make money sounds like a cheap shot at the empowerment of ordinary citizens against big government, one aspect of our system that is widely envied and worth defending vigorously.
The manifesto on which the UK Government was elected in 1997 included three commitments
regarding party funding:
· to oblige political parties to declare the source of all donations above a minimum figure
· to ban foreign funding of political parties
· to ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to consider how the funding of political
parties should be regulated and reformed
Summary of main pointsThe Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill was presented on 21 December 1999and is due to be debated on second reading on Monday 10 January 2000. This ResearchPaper covers the provisions in the Bill relating to donations to political parties and partyfinance in general. Two companion Research Papers are also available: RP 00/1 dealing withthe electoral aspects of the Bill, and RP 00/3 covering referendums and broadcasting aspects.The manifesto on which the Government was elected in 1997 included three commitmentsregarding party funding:· to oblige political parties to declare the source of all donations above a minimum figure· to ban foreign funding of political parties· to ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to consider how the funding of politicalparties should be regulated and reformedThe Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Neill of Bladen, reported in October 1998.The Government’s subsequent White Paper included a draft Bill, which forms the basis of theprovisions in the Bill.The main provisions of the Bill relating to the control of donations are:· the publication of details of donations to political parties of £5,000 or more at national level,and £1,000 at local level· a ban on donations from outside the UK, from trust funds and from unknown sources· a requirement for shareholder approval for company donations to parties· requirements relating to party accounts and the reporting of donations· control of donations to third parties, individual party members and member associations· establishment of a Policy Development Fund, making grants available to political parties· a reduction in the maximum qualifying period for overseas voters to 10 yearsThis paper examines the relevant provisions and also looks at related issues:· party finance in general· the question of public funding for political parties, including financial assistance to parties inParliament and the new devolved bodies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales· the case for and against tax relief on donations· the honours system
download PDF : RP00-2
IntroductionSince they emerged in the 1980s, Hong Kong political parties have struggled todevelop and establish themselves. They were discouraged by the British for most ofthe period when they ran Hong Kong. To this day, political parties confront a rangeof obstacles to healthy growth, including the denial of any governmental role toparties based on electoral popularity, limited public support, the limited law-makingrole allowed Legco, the negative impact of the functional constituency system, a selfchosenpreference for politics based primarily on opposition rather than policydevelopment and the watchful anxiety (especially in relation to pro-democracy parties)of Beijing.Limitations within the electoral-political-infrastructure (EPI) comprise one furtherinhibiting factor. EPI reform is really a “stand-alone” issue, however. That is, it canbe looked at separately from the inhibiting factors noted above. It can also beconsidered outside of the rather highly-charged debate about the pace ofdemocratization in the HKSAR. Hong Kong needs mature, stable, policy-focussedpolitical parties. EPI reform can help lay better foundations for the long-termdevelopment of all parties in Hong Kong.My view, based on a recent research report completed for Civic Exchange (PoliticalParty Development in Hong Kong (PPDEVHK Report))2 is that a new Political PartyOrdinance is not needed in Hong Kong to effect EPI reform. I believe we alreadyhave a basically sound – though incomplete – EPI governing the conduct of elections(and, indirectly, the operation of political parties) in the HKSAR. The way forward isto build on these essentially positive foundations using a series of legislative andrelated initiatives.The PPDEVHK Report – which forms the basis for this submission – includes adetailed, comparative review of the Australian experience with regulating electionsand political parties. The basic regulatory system in Australia is now over 100 yearsold. It has been steadily improved over time and, unlike in the US, for example, it iswidely regarded by participants from all sides of politics as working well. This makesit, comparatively, one of the most durable and successful, electoral-regulatorysystems in the world.
Download PDF : PPREGN-HKSAR-LEGCOSUB-CIVEX-22005-20102011