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September 21st, 2012:

Don’t mention Heathrow

Although the Airport Authority announced on Wednesday it would look into ways to evaluate the social and environmental impact of the planned third runway, this will do little to allay the suspicions of green groups. They believe the authority does not want to carry out a proper social return on investment study (SROI) out of concern that it could sink the runway project. The authority’s initial position was that it would obey the law and pursue the environmental impact assessment process.

After the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel unanimously called on the authority to conduct an SROI study in April, it responded that there was no accepted international methodology for conducting such a study. It was recently supported in this view by the Transport and Housing Bureau in an e-mail to the green groups: “As we have explained before, SROI is an evaluation tool rooted in the charity sector and is commonly used to evaluate the value of community projects competing for government or charity funding. We also understand that there is no commonly adopted methodology or standards for conducting SROI analysis and that no developed country adopts SROI analysis as general requirement for assessing infrastructure project proposals.”

Unfortunately there was one very significant SROI study, concluded in April 2010, that ironically concerned plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, which can hardly be described as a charity or community funding. The study concluded that the social and economic impact of the airport on Britain would be a loss of £5 billion (HK$62.6 billion), compared with the government’s estimates of a £5.5 billion gain. Unsurprisingly, the Hong Kong government and the Airport Authority aren’t keen to dwell on this report and particularly its outcome. The authority has been keen to play up the economic benefits, which it claims amount to HK$900 billion. A poll commissioned by WWF and Greenpeace found that 74 per cent of people were dissatisfied with the amount of information the authority had provided on the social and environmental aspect of the project.

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New step in fight against pollution promised soon

HK Standard

A strategy and goals to reduce cross- border air pollution in the next decade will be announced by the government soon, a top official said.

Mary Ann Benitez

Friday, September 21, 2012

A strategy and goals to reduce cross- border air pollution in the next decade will be announced by the government soon, a top official said.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing also said mechanisms will be reviewed on major polluters diesel cars and buses, power plants and ocean-going vessels.

Wong revealed this after meeting academics and green-group representatives at the Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay yesterday.

He said the Hong Kong and Guangdong cooperation program to improve air quality has reached its final stage. “In the near future, we will announce the results of the past 10 years, and the next five years and the goals of the decade.”

The report will summarize to what extent the targets have been reached.

“In addition, based on the results of the past, we will review the policy, and then set out – for example in 2020, in 2015 – how to reduce pollution.”

Wong said policies on diesel vehicles and buses will be reviewed to see how to take forward initiatives on cleaner fuel and engines.

Responding to a Civic Exchange report that about 400 Hongkongers die from bunker-fueled ships, Wong said the government will launch an incentive scheme next week for ocean-going vessels to switch to low-sulfur fuel when berthed in Hong Kong.

“That’s the first step. We would like to see the situation and response, and in the long term we would see the whole area become a low-emission zone, and also if necessary we can have laws to enforce it,” he said.

Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said: “What would be more ideal is if we can work with the Guangdong authorities to have the entire waters in the Pearl River Delta also declared a low-emission zone.” Friends of the Earth chief executive officer Chan May-ling said yesterday’s engagement exercise was a good opportunity for civil servants and government ministers to sit together with the academics and green groups.

“The secretary for the environment and the undersecretary walked the talk,” she said.

Loh, a former legislator who founded the policy think-tank Civic Exchange, was named to the post last week.

“The civil servants’ passion came out of the meeting,” she said. “They talked about how they would like things to move forward.”

Civic Exchange head of transport and sustainability research Simon Ng Ka- wing said: “We are concerned about the air quality objectives. We would like the government to progressively tighten the objectives along the World Health Organization’s standards.”