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Does new position turn the poacher into a gamekeeper?

Submitted by admin on Sep 27th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn   27 Sep 2012

A few eyebrows have been raised at Mike Kilburn’s decision to change jobs. It’s not so much because he is leaving the think tank Civic Exchange, where he was head of environmental strategy for four years, but because he has joined the Airport Authority. There have been murmurings about this being a case of “poacher turned gamekeeper”.

In his work for Civic Exchange, Kilburn says he always wrote from a perspective of neutrality, though elsewhere he has written some fairly trenchant articles. In CleanBiz Asia he wrote about the desire of green NGOs and the Legislative Council’s environmental panel for a “social return on investment” study on the third runway.

Kilburn highlighted the authority’s initial position, which was to do the legal minimum and carry out an environmental impact assessment. He described the authority’s stance as “out of touch”. People have observed that in offering him a job as senior manager environment, the authority has “taken out” a potentially influential critic.

But Kilburn assured Lai See that this was not the case. The position he applied for was established, he said, to help the airport to become the world’s greenest and to manage the sustainability reporting process. He says he won’t be working on the third runway project or be involved in the environmental impact assessment. He also says that after years of writing reports on what needed to be done, his new job is a chance to try to implement some of these ideas.

He believes the authority has a platform to do certain things that will have a positive effect on the city’s environment. “The fact that it has set itself the challenge of becoming the world’s greenest airport creates a driver for change which I am eager to make the best of,” he said.

There were similarities between doing policy research and sustainability reporting in that each involved trying to change prevailing mindsets, he added. “The corporate world in general has a great part to play in improving the overall sustainability in Hong Kong. I certainly do not think that the green groups are the only place … where you can try to be influential.” He sees it as a different platform to work on the same issue.

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Mike Kilburn

Environmental Impact Assessment

Airport Authority

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