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June, 2016:

On World Environment Day, Majorca presents its plans to start moving away from incineration

Waste management in Majorca has been for long associated with the incineration of waste. With the biggest waste-to-energy incineration plant in Southern Europe, the system has been shaped and impacted by this mega-infrastructure: with average separate collection at 15% and having reached the point of importing waste from Ireland and Italy to feed the facility.

However, after a change of government on the island, the region and most of the cities, a new and more environmentally friendly model of waste management is starting to take shape. Fortunately waste is no longer imported to be burned and cities, towns and villages of the island are starting to wake up and transition towards a new model.

Among the discussions for this new model, the city of Palma (the capital of the island with 400,000 inhabitants) chose the World Environment Day to organise a conference on waste management to learn about good practices that will help them designing a new model for the city. The conference presented good examples of waste management on the island, with the prominent cases of Porreres or Artà, that have recently joined the limited but growing group of towns above 70% separate collection on the island and are introducing an ambitious pay-as-you-throw scheme.

In addition to this, the conference focused on the role of economic incentives to help improve waste management, with examples like the bonus/malus tax on waste disposal existing in Catalonia, or the inclusion of pay-as-you-throw schemes in the tourist sector.

The conference was closed by Zero Waste Europe who presented their holistic vision of waste management and to provide good examples from the Network of Zero Waste Cities and from zero waste entrepreneurs. These examples were complemented with specific advice on how to bring Palma closer to Zero Waste.

The city representatives took note of these proposals, and advanced the introduction of compulsory bio-waste collection and door-to-door collection for some neighbourhoods, along with work on waste prevention.

All in all, the conference showed that there are alternatives to traditional waste management and that even for an island with the largest incineration plant, it is possible to start shifting.

Building a culture of zero waste in Brussels

On the 22nd June, 2016, Zero Waste Europe held the closing conference of the project “Town to town, people to people – Building a European Culture of Zero Waste” in Brussels. The project aimed at bringing together European municipalities and environmental organisations in the construction of a new zero waste culture.

After the Budapest, Ljubljana and Capannori conferences in November April and May, the final one took place in Brussels on 22nd June. Besides identifying good practices at the local level and helping diffuse them across Europe, this last conference also intended to bring the conclusions of the project to European policy makers.

The conference served to present Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study on the city of Parma. Gabriele Folli, Environment Councillor from the city of Parma, presented their transition towards Zero Waste, explaining how they have managed to move from 45% recycling to 73% in only 4 years and notably reduced their residual waste by 59%. The city is the vivid example that ambitious targets for the circular economy aren’t only feasible but bring environmental, social and economic benefits.

In addition to the presentation from Parma, the closing conference of the project counted on the presence of Annemie Andries, Senior Policy Advisor of OVAM, the Flemish Agency of Waste, who presented the new targets on residual waste that are being envisaged in Flanders. These accompany recycling targets and other measures and aim at pushing for a reduction of the non-reusable and non-recyclable waste.

After her, Alexandre Garcin, Deputy Mayor of Roubaix, presented the transition towards Zero Waste of this city in the North of France. In their case, the city doesn’t have the power to implement separate collection, but is directly working with households, companies, schools and civil society to minimise waste generation and to ensure separate collection of the waste that is produced. Roubaix showed that political will can overcome legal constraints.

Finally, Caroline van der Steen, Director of Stadsecoloog of Bruges, presented their Food Smart City project and the work they are doing to prevent food waste and to find alternative and innovative ways of making the most of food surpluses.

The project and the conference has allowed cities and civil society to exchange good practices on waste prevention, separate collection and other sectorial specific measures. Besides, it has boosted the exchanges and the relations among cities across the EU, truly permitting to build a culture of zero waste that has lead even to the twinning of two cities thanks to their efforts to go zero waste.

Hong Kong Kowloon firm to buy 500 coaches from Wrightbus

Ballymena’s Wrightbus is celebrating after securing a multi-million pound order for 500 buses.


The company, which employs 2,000 people in Co Antrim, will be supplying the vehicles to the Kowloon Motor Bus Company in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories area.

There are already 500 Wright buses on the regions’ roads following earlier deals.

Company chairman and co-founder William Wright revealed news of the latest multimillion-pound contract win in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Wright, who created the company with his father Robert in 1946, said: “Hong Kong can easily buy buses from China, but they come to us (when they want) quality.”

While he declined to reveal the total value of the deal, he admitted that it came to “quite a bit of money”.

Mr Wright said he was happy with the order and also happy with the outcome of the EU referendum.

The business boss, one of the few industry leaders in Northern Ireland to publicly back a Brexit, condemned the banks’ and stock markets’ “hysterical” reaction to the result.

“When it comes down to it, the European Union has just been about a trade deal – although some of the countries have been trying to make it another America of federal states,” he insisted.

Mr Wright also claimed that EU laws on cigarette packaging had directly resulted in the closure of tobacco giant JTI Gallaher’s factory in Ballymena. The plant is to shut completely next year, although lay-offs have already started.

Tyre maker Michelin is also to close its local plant in 2018, with the loss of 860 jobs.

“What bugs me is that 1,000 people in Ballymena have lost their jobs in tobacco manufacturing at JTI because the EU has stated you can no longer buy 10-packs of cigarettes,” the Wrightbus chairman said.

“That’s supposedly to stop young people smoking, but I’ve checked out prices. A pack of 10 would have cost £3.69 and 20 would cost £6.89. I don’t think anything would stop a young person who wants to smoke from paying an extra £3.”

Returning to the implications of a Brexit, he maintained he was confident that the UK would be able to negotiate strong trade deals with the remaining EU member states.

“German car manufacturers send 20% of their output to the UK, and others, like Renault and Peugeot are in the same situation,” Mr Wright said.

“Those countries will want a decent trade deal as much as the UK (will want one). It’s not sensible for them to want to punish the UK.”

The leading businessman also told how worries over immigration had influenced his pro-Brexit stance. “I do think immigration should be held at a reasonable level,” he said, adding that he was concerned that many immigrants arrived without essential skills.

However, he revealed that his company employed a number of Romanians and said: “We don’t discriminate – all we look for are skilled people.”

Dismissing fears that local firms would suffer in the wake of the EU results, Mr Wright insisted: “We’ve learned ourselves to take these things and find a way around them.”

He also said he was looking forward to meeting London Mayor Sadiq Khan – the successor to Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, who also bought 1,000 buses from his firm.

“I think I will have a lot in common with him,” he added. “Wrightbus started with the two of us in a tin shed, so I know all about austerity – and Sadiq’s parents came over from Pakistan. His father was a bus driver. They had a tough time, but they made it.”

The Wrightbus chairman told how his company did limited business in Europe and had sold only eight buses – to a Dutch customer – there in recent years.

He said most European bus companies were State-owned “and don’t want to take chances and try anything new”, but added: “We have salespeople looking at Europe regularly.”

Rather than focusing on the continent, the company makes many of its sales in Great Britain and the Republic, also exporting vehicles to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India.

Wrights Group is Ballymena’s biggest employer and with all the closures will soon be its last significant manufacturer.

In its latest results, the company almost more than doubled pre-tax profits to £11.6m on turnover of £297m.

‘Healing’ detected in Antarctic ozone hole

Researchers say they have found the first clear evidence that the thinning in the ozone layer above Antarctica is starting to heal.

The scientists said that in September 2015 the hole was around 4 million sq km smaller than it was in the year 2000 – an area roughly the size of India.

The gains have been credited to the long term phasing out of ozone-destroying chemicals.

The study also sheds new light on the role of volcanoes in making the problem worse.

Skin cancer worry

British scientists first noticed a dramatic thinning of ozone in the stratosphere some 10 kilometres above Antarctica in the mid 1980s.

Ozone is important because it blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

Its absence increases the chances of skin cancer, cataract damage, and harm to animals and plants.

In 1986, US researcher Susan Solomon showed that ozone was being destroyed by the presence of molecules containing chlorine and bromine that came from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These gases were found in everything from hairsprays to refrigerators to air conditioning units.

The reason the thinning was occurring mainly over Antarctica was because of the extreme cold and large amounts of light. These helped produce what are termed Polar Stratospheric Clouds.

In these chilled-out clouds, the chlorine chemistry occurs that destroys the ozone.

Thanks to the global ban on the use of CFCs in the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the situation in Antarctica has been slowly improving.

Several studies have shown the declining influence of CFCs, but according to the authors this new study shows the “first fingerprints of healing” and the ozone layer is actively growing again.

Prof Solomon and colleagues carried out detailed measurements of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere between 2000 and 2015.

Using data from weather balloons, satellites and model simulations, they were able to show that the thinning of the layer had declined by 4 million sq km over the period.

The found that more than half the shrinkage was due solely to the reduction in atmospheric chlorine.

Normally measurements are taken in October when the ozone hole is at its largest. But this team believed they would get a better picture by looking at readings taken in September, when temperatures are still low but other factors that can influence the amount of ozone, such as the weather, are less prevalent.

“Even though we phased out the production of CFCs in all countries including India and China around the year 2000, there’s still a lot of chlorine left in the atmosphere,” Prof Solomon told the BBC World Service Science in Action programme.

“It has a lifetime of about 50-100 years, so it is starting to slowly decay and the ozone will slowly recover.

“We don’t expect to see a complete recovery until about 2050 or 2060 but we are starting to see that in September the ozone hole is not as bad as it used to be.”

One finding that puzzled researchers was the October 2015 reading that showed the biggest ozone hole on record over Antarctica.

The scientists believe that a key contributor to the record hole was volcanic activity.

“After an eruption, volcanic sulphur forms tiny particles and those are the seeds for Polar Stratospheric Clouds,” Prof Solomon told Science in Action.

“You get even more of these clouds when you have a recent major volcanic eruption and that leads to additional ozone loss.”

“Until we did our recent work no-one realised that the Calbuco eruption in Chile, actually had significantly affected the ozone loss in October of last year.”

The study has been hailed as “historically significant” by some other researchers in the field.

“This is the first convincing evidence that the healing of the Antarctic ozone hole has now started,” said Dr Markus Rex from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.

“Right now the state of the ozone layer is still really bad, but I find it very important that we know the Montreal Protocol is working and has an effect on the size of the hole and that is a big step forward.”

Differing views

However others are not entirely convinced that the decline shown in the new study is down to a reduction in the amount of chlorine in the stratosphere.

“The data clearly show significant year to year variations that are much greater than the inferred trends shown in the paper,” said Dr Paul Newman from Nasa.

“If the paper included this past year, which had a much more significant ozone hole due to lower wave driven forcing, the overall trend would be less.”

Regardless of these questions, the scientists involved in the study believe the ozone story is a great role model for how to tackle global environmental problems.

“It’s just been remarkable,” said Prof Solomon.

“This was an era in which international co-operation went rather well on some issues. I was inspired by the way the developed and developing countries were able to work together on dealing with the ozone hole,” said Prof Solomon.

Why is Singapore’s household recycling rate stagnant?

SINGAPORE: For two years, Hougang resident Padmarani Srivatsan has been collecting raw food scraps – like vegetable and fruit peel – that she throws out from her kitchen, turning it into soil nutrients for her plants.

“It’s black gold,” she said, picking up a handful from her composting bucket and taking a sniff. “And it doesn’t smell at all. It smells… wholesome.”

Besides composting raw food waste, the 52-year-old kindergarten teacher has been recycling other waste that her household generates, including plastics, glass bottles, paper and tin cans. Doing all this requires a conscientious effort, said Mrs Srivatsan, acknowledging that it may be a challenge for many Singaporeans, who generate some of the most waste globally on a per capita basis, to follow her example.

A 2012 World Bank report put the amount of Singapore’s per capita municipal waste generated at 1.49kg a day – on par with Hong Kong, but higher than South Korea. At the same time, the household recycling rate remained at around 20 per cent between 2005 and 2015 – and this is “quite low”, despite more than 15 years of the National Recycling Programme (NRP), according to Mr Eugene Tay, director of sustainability consulting company Green Future Solutions.

When asked for an update on the NRP in Parliament this April, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor pledged that the Government will continue its efforts on public education, as “30 to 50 per cent of materials deposited into the recycling bins are not suitable for recycling”.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore’s domestic recycling rate was 19 per cent in 2015, and the target is to bring this to 30 per cent by 2030. This is below other developed economies like the United Kingdom and Taiwan, where the household recycling rates in 2013 were 44.2 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

While the rate is comparatively low, it is tricky to benchmark Singapore – a city-state – against other countries for two reasons. Firstly, different countries have different methodologies. Secondly, countries with significant agricultural sectors could have an outsized contribution to the domestic recycling rate through composting and anaerobic digestion. But the NEA does acknowledge multiple challenges to raising the domestic recycling rate.

A key issue is the ubiquity of in-home refuse chutes, which public high-rise apartment blocks built before the late 1980s are fitted with. The convenience of the refuse chute poses a challenge to studies that attempts to find ways to increase the domestic recycling rate, said the NEA.

Take a usage-based pricing scheme for example, where households pay according to the amount of waste they throw away and enjoy savings when they reduce their waste. According to the NEA, “a key challenge in its implementation” would be the use of refuse chutes in high-rise buildings, where more than 90 per cent of the population reside.

Although HDB blocks built after 1989 are installed with a centralised refuse chute on each floor, and blocks built after 2014 will have an additional centralised recycling chute, it will take decades before in-home refuse chutes are entirely phased out and for the majority of HDB dwellers to have access to recycling chutes.

In the meantime, environmental experts say more public engagement is needed to get people to segregate recyclables from their waste, and to put them in the blue recycling bins allotted to each public housing block. But even if residents put in the effort, the use of the blue recycling bins comes with its own set of problems.

A challenge to boosting the domestic recycling rate has to do with the fact that some people are not sure of how and what to recycle, and there is confusion over where recyclables end up, said Mr Tay of Green Future Solutions, adding that some think that the recyclables end up in the incineration plants.

A straw poll among five households who recycle shows that best practices are unclear even among those who make use of the blue bins.

“Empty paper cups from McDonald’s – can these be recycled or are they considered contaminated? I’m confused over what can and cannot be recycled,” said Ms Chan Yen Sen, 38, who has been recycling for the last eight years.

The consultant and part-time lecturer, who is a resident of Bukit Batok, added: “Empty soft-drink plastic bottles – do they need to be washed? If I don’t wash them, they may attract pests. If I do wash them, it’s a waste of water – and that’s counterproductive to being eco-conscious.”

Ms Angie Woo, a home-maker from Newton who has been recycling for more than a decade, also noted that the recycling guidelines can be clearer.

“When I travel and stay at AirBnb apartments in Australia or France, I notice the hosts would have very detailed and easy-to-follow guides on how to recycle – what to do, what not to do. We’re lacking this in Singapore,” said Ms Woo, who is in her early fifties.

Confusion over the use of the recycling bins has led to their misuse as a general waste bin. According to the NEA, materials that have been deposited into the recycling bins include non-recyclables, like “pillows, soft toys and footwear” and unfinished food and drinks which contaminate the rest of the recyclables.


While household recycling rates remain comparatively low, environmental experts say that legislation and punitive measures to change that trend may not be necessary.

“Before we consider punitive measures, there is still room for improving our current education and engagement efforts. More effective and targeted outreach and communications are needed… to change mindsets and behaviours,” said Mr Tay, who also runs Zero Waste SG, an NGO which aims to increase waste minimisation and recycling in Singapore.

Ms Rachel See, an environmental engineer with the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) agreed, adding that the effectiveness of legislation depends on ensuring that there are adequate resources in place.

“Instilling knowledge and good habits such as recycling and proper waste segregation are essential, and a multi-pronged approach should be adopted to reinforce the importance of recycling in sustaining a healthy environment,” she said, adding that community involvement is key to making recycling a social norm.

Beyond outreach efforts that appeal to people’s green impulses, the Government has also sought to change mindsets by appealing to people’s pragmatism.

For example, the NEA has worked with public waste collectors to implement 90 “Cash for Trash” collection points, where residents can exchange recyclables for cash. It also jointly organises a “Green Homes” programme with the SEC and the North West Community Development Council to hand out awards to households that recycle and use energy-efficient electrical appliances.

Green Home award recipient Mrs Rowena Artiaga, who lives in a four-room HDB flat in Segar, said the utility bill for her family of five comes up to just below S$100 a month. In comparison, data from Singapore Power show the average utility bill for a four-room HDB flat is around S$144.

Besides recycling the usual materials – paper, plastic, metal, and glass – Mrs Artiago also makes the effort to reuse water. Water used to wash fruits and vegetables for example, can be collected and used to water plants. The family also rarely uses air-conditioning.

“It’s proof that it’s not just for the environment. When you lead an eco-conscious lifestyle, it’s also cost saving,” said the 51-year-old home-maker.

Blame Hong Kong’s failures of government on Carrie Lam and Co, not our political system

Philip Bowring says multiple failings in the city – from the water contamination scandal to long-running issues in the tax system – are largely the result of ill-thought-out policies and inept implementation

“For administration” – note the words attached to the chief secretary’s title. Any claim by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to be the next chief executive must start with her performance in this role. The same applies to fellow lifelong civil servant, John Tsang Chun-wah.

Incumbent Leung Chun-ying may be unpopular by reason of his personality and desire to please Beijing (witness his obsession with “One Belt, One Road”). As a politician able to lead, he is a failure. Yet, the practical failings of his government are largely those of administration, for which Lam is responsible.

It is easy but wrong to blame failures on the political system [2], as former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, another political failure, has endeavoured to do. Yes, the obstruction of bills by pro­-democracy legislators has been an issue. So has the opposition to change from narrow functional constituency interests. But the failure of executive-led government is largely the failure of senior ministers, headed by Lam and Tsang, to use existing laws and powers to devise and implement new policies.

Lam has proved that, however sweetly she talks and smiles, she is unable to escape the cosy civil service cocoon, incapable of backing significant change and overprotective of her fellow bureaucrats. Thus, no individuals are to blame for the water contamination scandal [3], just the “system”. Similar attitudes have prevailed regarding marine and other accidents.

As for Tsang, here is an amiable individual who has missed seven budget opportunities to address [5] Hong Kong’s warped revenue structure [6]. Indeed, he has further narrowed the tax base. And while lecturing the public on the dangers of social spending, he has given carte blanche to tens of billions of waste on ill-thought-out, poorly designed and implemented infrastructure projects. The Treasury is supposed to keep oversight of spending but, in practice, agencies spend without control and then demand more money to finish the job. Years of talk about an effective but affordable pension system [7] to replace the current jumble of allowances, concessions and the flawed Mandatory Provident Fund has led nowhere. Financial market development remains impeded by two competing government entities, the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and the Securities and Futures Commission.

Leung is ultimately to blame for the administration’s failures because of his lack of leadership

Meanwhile, look at the snail’s pace of change in areas demanding attention to bring Hong Kong up to date. The Octopus card was an innovation 19 years ago but has become yet another indirectly (via the MTR Corporation) government-controlled near monopoly while newer payment systems lag. Current tinkering with the taxi licences [8] in the face of Uber merely shows up how far Lam and Co are trapped by the taxi owners’ vested interests.

Tiny steps on issues such as water conservation, waste management and air pollution merely show up how far Hong Kong has fallen behind other advanced cities – and even some lower-income ones. It is nearly 50 years behind Tokyo in waste management, 30 behind Singapore in traffic management and two decades in water management.

Land issues remain subject to minor meddling rather than the real reform needed to break the grip of the major land owners and the Heung Yee Kuk mafia. It is no surprise that top civil servants Raphael Hui Si-yan and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen were both indicted for deals with developers. Many view their cases as the tip of an iceberg.

The administration even fails spectacularly in implementing existing laws where these inconvenience influential persons. Obstructive, illegal parking is a well-worn topic [10] but failure to address such a simple issue says much about the mentality of the administration.

The notion that administrators who have so singularly failed in recent years would do a better job than Leung is nonsense

Thanks to the administration’s disregard for other laws, Hong Kong also exhibits its nastier side to the outside world. In theory, there are laws to protect domestic helpers [11]. In practice, the efforts made to enforce them are so feeble that the relevant departments reasonably stand accused of being more interested in the well-being of exploitative agencies charging illegal fees than of the helpers. The authorities seldom police many loan companies (some subsidiaries of banks) from which helpers have to borrow to meet fee demands [12]. Lenders are known to charge fees in addition to the maximum permitted interest rate. All these abuses have been documented for years. But nothing is done, or about the widespread underpayment of statutory wages, nor to make it possible for helpers to complain without being fired and subject to deportation.

Leung is ultimately to blame for the administration’s failures because of his lack of leadership. Focus on “one country” and constitutional issues have meant that Lam, Tsang and company have been allowed to plod along addressing neither major issues firmly nor willing to upset entrenched interests. Beijing’s instincts also favour more government, not better government, and more focus on political correctness, rather than economic efficiency and market competition.

But the notion that administrators who have so singularly failed in recent years would do a better job than Leung is nonsense. The failure of the executive-led government is more about the quality of the executives than the system itself.

Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator

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Exxon-Mobil is abusing the first amendment

Global warming is perhaps the single most significant threat facing the future of humanity on this planet. It is likely to wreak havoc on the economy, including, most especially, on the stocks of companies that sell hydrocarbon energy products. If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.

A potentially analogous instance of fraud occurred when tobacco companies were found to have deliberately misled their customers about the dangers of smoking. The safety of nicotine was at the time fiercely debated, just as the threat of global warming is now vigorously contested. Because tobacco companies were found to have known about the risks of smoking, even as they sought to convince their customers otherwise, they were held liable for fraud. Despite the efforts of tobacco companies to invoke First Amendment protections for their contributions to public debate, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found: “Of course it is well settled that the First Amendment does not protect fraud.”

The point is a simple one. If large corporations were free to mislead deliberately the consuming public, we would live in a jungle rather than in an orderly and stable market.

ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.

One would think conservative intellectuals would be the first to recognize the necessity of prohibiting fraud so as to ensure the integrity of otherwise free markets.

Prohibitions on fraud go back to Roman times; no sane market could exist without them.

It may be that after investigation the attorneys general do not find evidence that ExxonMobil has committed fraud. I do not prejudge the question. The investigation is now entering its discovery phase, which means it is gathering evidence to determine whether fraud has actually been committed.

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Nevertheless, ExxonMobil and its defenders are already objecting to the subpoena by the attorneys general, on the grounds that it “amounts to an impermissible content-based restriction on speech” because its effect is to “deter ExxonMobil from participating in the public debate over climate change now and in the future.” It is hard to exaggerate the brazen audacity of this argument.

If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

But if the First Amendment does not prevent lawsuits for fraud, it does not prevent subpoenas designed to provide evidence necessary to establish fraud. That is why when a libel plaintiff sought to inquire into the editorial processes of CBS News and CBS raised First Amendment objections analogous to those of ExxonMobil, the Supreme Court in the 1979 case Herbert v. Lando unequivocally held that the Constitution does not preclude ordinary discovery of information relevant to a lawsuit, even with respect to a defendant news organization.

The attorneys general are not private plaintiffs. They represent governments, and the Supreme Court has always and rightfully been extremely reluctant to question the good faith of prosecutors when they seek to acquire information necessary to pursue their official obligations. If every prosecutorial request for information could be transformed into a constitutional attack on a defendant’s point of view, law enforcement in this country would grind to a halt. Imagine the consequences in prosecutions against terrorists, who explicitly seek to advance a political ideology.

It is grossly irresponsible to invoke the First Amendment in such contexts. But we are witnessing an increasing tendency to use the First Amendment to unravel ordinary business regulations. This is heartbreaking at a time when we need a strong First Amendment for more important democratic purposes than using a constitutional noose to strangle basic economic regulation.

Hong Kong greenhouse gas emissions rise for a third year

Government figures for 2013 put total carbon dioxide emissions at 44.4 million tonnes – the bulk coming from electricity generation

The city’s greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise, reaching 44.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013, the latest government figures show.

Each Hongkonger produced about 6.2 tonnes in that year, the latest for which data is available. It is up from six tonnes in the year before, according to the Environmental Protection Department’s latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

Total emissions rose for the third year in a row since 2010, when emissions totalled 40.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The city saw a 1.2-million-tonne increase in 2013 from the year before, which is equivalent to 135 million gallons of gasoline or emissions from 126,700 homes’ energy use in a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s calculator.

Electricity generation remained the major source of emissions in 2013, amounting to 30.3 million tonnes, 68.3 per cent of the total.This is up from 29.4 million tonnes in the previous year.

Emissions from transport and other uses of fuel totalled 9.8 million tonnes, or 22 per cent of the total.

Prentice Koo Wai-muk, senior energy campaigner for World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong, said the city’s two electricity suppliers – CLP Power and HK Electric – used more coal instead of cleaner natural gas to generate electricity in 2013, contributing to higher emissions.

“We expect the amount of emissions to drop after 2015 because the government started to limit power companies’ air pollutant emissions,” said Koo. “To reduce such emissions, the most obvious way for power companies is to use less coal.”

Emissions from waste totalled 2.5 million tonnes, up from 2.3 million tonnes in 2012. Industrial processes and product use generated 1.7 million tonnes, also higher than the 1.6 million in 2012.

Carbon intensity remained steady from 2010 to 2013 at 0.021kg per Hong Kong dollar unit of gross domestic product.
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Effectiveness of Central-Wan Chai Bypass in easing traffic congestion

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):


The public engagement document on the Electronic Road Pricing Pilot Scheme in Central and its Adjacent Areas has pointed out that one key consideration in assessing if electronic road pricing is a suitable solution for traffic congestion is whether a free-of-charge alternative route is available to motorists to bypass the charging area.The document has also pointed out that the Central-Wan Chai Bypass (CWB), upon its commissioning, will serve as a free-of-charge alternative route, making it convenient for motorists whose journeys do not start nor end in Central or its adjacent areas to make a detour around the charging area.Regarding the effectiveness of CWB in easing the traffic congestion in Central, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the Government indicated in February 2014 that upon the commissioning of CWB, it would be only five minutes’ drive from Central to Island Eastern Corridor at North Point, but now CWB cannot be completed in 2017 as originally scheduled and the number of vehicles in the territory upon the commissioning of CWB is expected to be higher than the original estimation, whether the Government has reassessed the time required for the aforesaid journey; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) of the authorities’ latest estimations of (i) the vehicular flows of CWB and its percentage in the design capacity of CWB, (ii) the reduction in vehicular flows on various major roads in Central as a result of the commissioning of CWB, and (iii) the effectiveness of CWB in easing the traffic congestion in Central, in the first five years upon the commissioning of CWB; and

(3) given that the Commissioner for Transport indicated in an article published in a newspaper on March 8 of this year that, as pointed out in past studies, CWB would render no direct help to easing traffic congestion on non-major trunk roads (e.g. Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central) within Central, and at the time a large number of vehicles that needed to go into Central would still be using these roads, and the authorities therefore did not expect that the traffic congestion in the locations concerned would be much improved, of the details of the aforesaid studies and the data in support of the aforesaid conclusion?



The Central-Wan Chai Bypass (CWB) is a strategic route along the northern shore of the Hong Kong Island, aiming to alleviate the serious traffic congestion at Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road.It is anticipated that upon commissioning, drivers whose origins and destinations are not in Central will no longer use the current major trunk road that runs through Central from east to west (viz. Connaught Road Central).However, those drivers whose origins or destinations are in Central will still have to use the non-major trunk roads (e.g.

Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central).

The CWB project is a large-scale and complex road infrastructure project.It has encountered various difficulties and challenges since construction commenced in 2009 which affected the progress of works.Part of the construction of the CWB tunnel structure that has been entrusted by the Highways Department (HyD) to the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) to be carried out under the Wan Chai Development Phase II project (WDII), is part of the main trunk road of the CWB.The large metal object that was previously found at the seabed of the WDII works site caused suspension of reclamation and associated works in the area.After the reclamation works resumed in early July 2015, the CEDD notified the HyD of the revised site handing over schedule after the recommencement of works.The CEDD estimated that the section concerned of the CWB tunnel could only be completed for handing over to the HyD¡¦s contractor for carrying out the subsequent works in mid-2017.As such, the HyD anticipated that the related subsequent works like installing various electrical and mechanical facilities (including a traffic control and surveillance system, a tunnel ventilation system, a lighting system and a fire services system), laying road pavement and carrying out system testing and commissioning, could not be completed within the same year.In other words, the CWB could not be commissioned in 2017 as originally scheduled.The HyD together with their consulting engineer and resident site staff will continue to closely monitor the works progress of the CWB project and will duly assess the schedule of works with the aim of commissioning the CWB as early as possible.

My reply to the various parts of the Hon Frankie Yick’s question is as follows:

In the discussion paper PWSC(2009-10)52 submitted to the Legislative Council Public Works Subcommittee by the Government in 2009, the following details of projected volume to capacity (v/c) ratios (Note 1) in the morning peaks in 2017 (anticipated commissioning year at that time) and 2021 have been provided:

If withoutwithIf withoutwith
the CWBthe CWBthe CWBthe CWB



As shown from the above table, at the initial stage of commissioning of the CWB, the v/c ratio in the morning peaks is 0.7, meaning that at its initial stage of commissioning, the capacity of the CWB is sufficient to cope with the anticipated traffic volume with a smooth traffic flow.Therefore, it is anticipated that same as the original estimates, it will only take about five minutes to drive from Central to the Island Eastern Corridor at North Point.Also as shown from the above table, at the initial stage of commissioning of the CWB, the v/c ratios of Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road will decrease from 1.3 to 0.9.Therefore, the Government anticipates that upon commissioning of the CWB, the traffic congestion at Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road can be alleviated.

However, the CWB will bring no direct relief to non-major trunk roads (e.g. Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central) in Central.After the commissioning of the CWB, these roads will still be used by a large number of vehicles which need to enter Central.As such, the traffic condition in the district is not expected to improve significantly.With reference to the information in the Supplementary Note provided by the Government to the Expert Panel on Sustainable Transport Planning and Central ¡V Wan Chai Bypass under the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee (Note 2) in 2005, the same conclusion could be drawn – after the commissioning of the CWB, traffic congestion will only be slightly alleviated during peak hours at certain busy junctions in Central (e.g. the junction of Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road Central, and the junction of Queen’s Road Central and Ice House Street (Note 3)).

Note 1: Volume/capacity (v/c) ratio is an indication of the traffic conditions of roads during peak hours.

A v/c ratio equals to or less than 1.0 is considered acceptable. A v/c ratio between 1.0 and 1.2 indicates a manageable degree of congestion. A v/c ratio above 1.2 indicates more serious congestion.

Note 2: Please see Appendix 4.6B of Supplementary Note No.5 (

Note 3: The performance of a traffic signalised junction is indicated by its reserve capacity (RC).A positive RC indicates that the junction is operating with spare capacity; and a negative RC indicates that the junction is overloaded, resulting in traffic queues and longer travelling time.After the commissioning of the CWB, the RC of the junction of Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road Central and the junction of Queen’s Road Central and Ice House Street during peak hours are expected to improve from 2% to 6% and from -3% to 5% respectively.

Parma proves 70% recycling and 100kg residual waste can be achieved in only 4 years

This case study confirms that ZWE’s proposals for the Circular Economy package can be achieved in very little time

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has published today a new case study on the city of Parma, Italy, which highlights how with political will and citizen involvement it is possible to radically reduce residual waste, create jobs and save the taxpayers money.

Parma, with 190,284 inhabitants, had separate collection stagnated around 45% for some years. However a citizens-led initiative to move away from waste disposal managed in 2012 to transform waste policies and brought a zero waste plan for Parma.

The new plan copied and improved what is already working well in other towns of the zero waste network; intensive kerbside collection and pay-as-you-throw systems together with lots of education and keeping the system flexible to accomodate further improvements.


The indicator that the town used to measure success was the reduction of residual waste (what is sent for landfilling and/or WtE incineration) per capita which was reduced by a staggering 59%, from 283kg to 117kg, in only 4 years. By 2015 the separate collection was raised to 72% and the quality of the materials separated for recycling had also increased.

The new system of collection is more labour intensive which has meant that the number of waste collectors has increased from 77 to 121 with a number of other indirect jobs being created whilst the city has saved €453,736 in comparison with the former system.


But the transition is far from over. By end of 2016 Parma will be generating less than 100kg of residual waste per person and have achieved 80% separate collection and plans are to continue on the path to zero waste.

Joan Marc Simon, Director of ZWE said “Some spend their time finding excuses not to deliver in 2030, others like the city of Parma prove that a target of 70% recycling and 100kg residual waste per capita is achievable in less than 5 years”.

This case study and the case for a target on residual waste per capita will be presented in Brussels next Wednesday 22nd June by the Councilor for Environment of the city of Parma, Gabriele Folli, in the conference Towards Zero Waste Cities: How local authorities can apply waste prevention policies taking place at the Committee of the Regions.