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June 8th, 2012:

Islanders backed in incinerator battle

HK Standard, Friday, June 08, 2012

The High Court has granted leave for a judicial review launched by four Cheung Chau residents over a government plan to build a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau.

High Court judge Thomas Au Hing- cheung accepted all four applications.

A three-day hearing of the first case will begin on November 14.

Lawyers representing the group claim the Environmental Impact Assessment report on the multibillion dollar project is defective.

They say the report is totally inconsistent with the technical requirements of an environmental study, does not explain the reasons for constructing incinerators and does not include any feasible alternatives.

They also question the justification for building an incinerator, namely that landfills are being exhausted.

The impact of the incinerator on water quality and ecological environment is also inadequately covered in regard to contaminant leakage, public safety and health, they claim.

But counsel for the government say the report has already explained that a pressing need exists for the construction of the incinerator, and there is no alternative other than building it on Shek Kwu Chau.


Tough line on foreign homebuyers pushed

Natallie Cai HK Standard

Friday, June 08, 2012

The administration should study measures to limit non-locals from buying flats, Housing Authority chairman Anthony Cheung Bing-leung says.

“According to the changing structure of the local property market, the government should study the possibility of limiting purchases by foreigners, although such a move is controversial,” he said.

Cheung is expected to be secretary for housing, planning and lands in the incoming administration of Leung Chun-ying, who assumes office on July 1.

His comments echoed those of Leung, who has proposed allocating sites for flats to be built just for locals.

“It is right for the government to launch more public housing, and the new government should continue the move in a bid to cool red-hot prices,” Cheung said.

Emperor International (0163) sold 30 units out of the first batch of 31 flats in The Prince Place in Kowloon City yesterday at an average price of HK$11,075 per square foot. Only a small number of buyers came from the mainland.

The sales totaled HK$200 million, executive director Donald Cheung Ping-keung said.

Unit sizes are from 543 sq ft to 1,248 sq ft. The project has a total of 36 units.

He estimated the price for the remaining units will rise 5-10 percent.

Also, a consortium led by Sino Land (0083) put to market 131 units at Providence Peak in Tai Po for HK$8,110 psf on average.

Market sources said the consortium has so far received around 100 checks to reserve flats.

The units are sized from 788 sq ft to 2,037 sq ft.

Low-carbon economy will deliver change for Hong Kong


Thomas Ho outlines a plan to turn Hong Kong into a low-carbon economy, beginning with the complement of actions our next government can and should take for a cleaner, more competitive city

Jun 08, 2012

Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’s manifesto called for seeking change while preserving stability. Hong Kong people will embrace change – if it improves their lives. A framework that fits the purpose of delivering the change Hong Kong wants is low-carbon development.

Sustainable development means designing growth and physical infrastructure to serve people’s needs for both financial security and quality of life. Done right, it lays the groundwork for sustainable prosperity (SEHK: 0803announcementsnews)- including ample fresh water, clean air and diversity of natural resources – for future generations.

Hong Kong already has a low-carbon economic plan, proposed by the government in 2010. It has four main parts. The first calls for cleaner electricity, half of it generated by nuclear energy, 40 per cent by gas and the rest by coal and renewable fuels. The second proposes significantly increasing the energy efficiency of Hong Kong’s buildings. The third involves segregating and recycling or burning our waste, rather than simply dumping it in landfills. And the fourth envisions lowering vehicle emissions (and roadside pollution) with hybrid or electric vehicles and a 10per cent blend of biodiesel in petroleum-based diesel. All make sense. And all should be rigorously pursued – now.

China is moving ahead. It set a carbon intensity reduction target of 40-45 per cent, which it expects to reach by 2025. HSBC’s Climate Change Centre of Excellence estimates that reaching the target will require China to decrease its carbon intensity by 0.5 per cent annually.

Thus, it’s not surprising that its 12th five-year plan is the most ambitious to date in environment and energy management. It prescribes both defensive strategies, like pollution prevention, and offensive ones, like investments in clean industries.

Hong Kong should help. The “one country, two systems” philosophy demands it, and our own interest in maintaining Hong Kong’s competitiveness requires it.

That leads to the question: How? The Environment Bureau cannot deliver a low-carbon economy on its own – not in the current government or in the restructure foreseen under Leung. In fact, the only way to deliver sustainable development is through a holistic master plan to improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness, environment and quality of life for all.

Success will require political will from citizens, the new chief executive, and at least six departments in a restructured government:

  • The Environment Bureau should urgently approve a new electricity fuel mix commensurate with Hong Kong’s air quality and carbon reduction goals. The infrastructure for cleaner fuels will take eight to 10 years to approve and construct. Cleaner fuels cost more: the government must explain that tariff increases are unavoidable because of market rationale and health and environmental reasons. Concurrently, the bureau should tighten energy efficiency standards for appliances and building equipment.
  • The Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau should develop under-used land rather than reclaim land. Housing and commercial development must be co-ordinated with transport links. This co-ordination should be made visible, and all investments should maximise energy efficiency.
  • The Transport and Works Bureau should work aggressively to take high-emitting vehicles off the road. Bus routes that overlap with rail lines should be done away with.
  • The Civil Engineering and Development Department (in the Transport and Works Bureau) should apply sustainable development to all its engineering works. This department is also well placed to spearhead life-cycle carbon analyses, engendering greater take-up of such analysis throughout the government.
  • The Commerce and Industries Bureau must institute world-class standards for maritime pollution control, as industry has been demanding. It should support both shipping and ports through the rational use of land on and adjacent to current port terminals.
  • The Technology and Communications Bureau should support environmental industries and green research and development, in line with Hong Kong’s contribution to the development of the Pearl River Delta.

The chief secretary and financial secretary are ultimately accountable for delivering these critical policies. Together, they should also drive low-carbon economic development in harmony with Guangdong, to realise the vision of a green, vibrant delta.

Make no mistake: Hong Kong has the capacity to become Asia’s greenest city. One under-celebrated example is our very own airport. Last month, the Airport Authority and 40 business partners pledged to make Hong Kong International Airport the world’s greenest.

The effort is already under way. The airport and its partners have reduced carbon intensity by 10 per cent last year. They are on track to deliver a 25 per cent reduction by 2015 from 2008 levels. This achievement represents over 300 separate actions as diverse as using electric vehicles, phasing in LED lighting, upgrading cooling systems, recycling food waste and investing in environmental education.

Incredibly, there isn’t a global standard that recognises these broad, quantifiable environmental improvements. The Hong Kong airport is now advocating to develop such a standard for airports everywhere. Such voluntary, business-driven commitment could and should be echoed by other Hong Kong businesses.

In short: low-carbon development is simply rigorous application of common sense. It does not make sense to risk human health or essential environmental resources in pursuit of development. It does make sense to build affordable housing that meets the same sustainability criteria as upmarket development does. And it does make sense to invest the intellectual, financial and political capital to change our mindsets – so that rigorous common sense becomes the development criterion of reference for Hong Kong.

In 2010, Leung wrote in these pages: “It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 100 years ago. The second best time is now. We need to plant both trees and the seeds of a low-carbon, smart-energy economy. Only then can we ensure prosperity for our children.”

Indeed – the time for action has come.

Thomas Ho is chair of the Climate Change Business Forum

Protesters win right to fight incinerator

SCMP – June 8, 2012

High Court grants four activists permission to launch legal challenge against government plan to build a HK$23 billion waste disposal facility off Lantau
Austin Chiu
Jun 08, 2012

Four protesters yesterday won permission to launch a court challenge against a government plan to build a massive offshore waste incinerator – even though the project is on hold.

The four were granted leave by the High Court to mount a judicial review of decisions by the Town Planning Board and the director of the Environmental Protection Department that cleared the path for building the incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, an island south of Lantau and home to a drug rehabilitation centre with about 300 patients and staff.

The four protesters come from Lantau and nearby Cheung Chau.

The government had sought funding for the HK$23 billion incinerator (including HK$8 billion to expand landfills), which it said could handle 3,000 tonnes of waste a day, but said in April the request would not proceed during the tenure of the present government.

The four claimed that the environmental impact assessment report was substandard because it failed to explain why there were no alternative options or give details of measures to counter negative effects of the incinerator.

Leung Hon-wai, Sin Chi-man, Kwok Cheuk-kin and Ho Loy were also unhappy with the Executive Council’s decision to approve an outline zoning plan for Shek Kwu Chau and the artificial island on which the burner would be built.

The hearing will take place between November 14 and 16 before Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung.

To save public funds, only Leung’s case will proceed and the other three applicants will be bound be the decision.

Barrister Valentine Yim See-tai, for Leung and Sin, told the High Court that the government had failed to consider reasonable alternative locations and waste disposal technology.

The government had also failed to set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment report how it came to the conclusion that the incinerator was actually needed, Yim said.

Yim said the applicants were hoping that the High Could would rule that the government should start the decision process again, but this time with alternative options.

“This is a blank proposal without any ‘meat’ in it,” Yim said. “It is really unreasonable for the director [of the Environmental Protection Department] to say there is no reasonable and practical alternative.”

He said the government had admitted in the report that a 31-hectare marine habitat of high ecological value would be lost permanently due to the project, but it omitted details about potential health risks and dangers and mitigation measures that needed to be adopted.

Yim said the government should list the worst scenarios, such as whether there would be chemical spillage in the event of an earthquake.

“We are not here to nitpick, but this is an important public health matter; we don’t want this omitted,” Yim said.

Johnny Mok SC, for the government, rejected claims that they had not considered alternative technology. He said they had discussed four methods but came to the conclusion that thermal technology was most suitable.

He also said that the government had put forward adequate mitigation measures, which meant the amount of marine habitat that would be lost had been reduced from 50 hectares to 31 hectares.

Mok said the government was not required to carry out a hazard assessment. “We are talking about simple air pollution … It’s not going to be life threatening. It’s only going to have a very limited effect.”

Dumpers, taxi drivers flout law also

SCMP – June 8, 2012

More Letters …….

I have noted observations by some correspondents about the lack of compliance regarding smoking in bars and eating and drinking on the MTR.

To this list, please add taxis, which leave motors running summer and winter at taxi stands and, more importantly, the dumping of household rubbish in refuse bins in the street.

This issue of rubbish disposal is particularly topical, and it should be noted the free service provided by our street cleaners is truly heroic.

The compliance notice on street bins threatens a fine of HK$5,000, but unfortunately, the sign itself is not seen as deterrent enough.

Why would any residents consider paying to have their rubbish removed when they know someone will collect it for free if they dump it on the street? The fear of confrontation seems to haunt our enforcement officers. It has rendered them impotent and made the law a joke.

Try to get information regarding the number of prosecutions for eating and drinking on the MTR or dumping household rubbish on street corners, and you will be fobbed off or ignored.

This information should be in the public domain, but the numbers are obviously so small, they serve only to highlight the officers’ paper-tiger personalities.

Paul Brownlie, Fanling

Authority in the dark over runway social cost study

HK Standard

Phila Siu

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Airport Authority Hong Kong is looking into the feasibility of conducting a study to find out the social cost of building a third runway.

But it has no concrete way of knowing how to go about it as it lacks a frame of reference.

“It is difficult for us to commit to something when we aren’t quite clear what it is,” Kevin Poole, the authority’s deputy director of projects, said.

Poole’s remarks came after the authority officially began the statutory impact assessment when it submitted a project profile of the third runway to the Environmental Protection Department last Monday.

Besides the statutory assessment and social cost study, the authority is also looking to determine the volume of carbon emissions from flights that enter and leave Hong Kong.

Tommy Leung King-yin, general manager of the authority’s projects, said it is hard to gauge the cost of feeling sick because of pollution generated by the runway’s construction.

“It will also be tough to keep track of the carbon emission over the airport’s airspace because the pollutants can be blown into Hong Kong by the wind.”

Although a non-governmental organization has conducted a study to find out the social cost of building an extra runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, Leung said it is hard to just take that study’s framework and apply it to Hong Kong. This is because Hong Kong and London are two different cities, he added.

That study, conducted several years ago, found the social cost of building an extra runway in London would be 5.5 billion (HK$66 billion). Another study conducted by the British government said the extra runway would bring an economic benefit of 5 billion.

Poole said that if the social cost study is to be carried out, he hopes it can be done in 2014 – the same year when the statutory environmental assessment is done.

Green Sense chairman Roy Tam Hoi- pong cast doubts on the authority being sincere about conducting the social cost survey. “Their attitude is that they are just doing it for the sake of doing it,” he said.

Tam said if the authority is sincere, it should hire a consultant and pay an independent party to conduct the study.

He added that as far as he knows, no green group has agreed to work with the authority on its statutory environmental assessment

UK Biofuel Firm Agrees $150m Funding for Philippine Project

Description: gazasia UK Biofuel Firm Agrees $150m Funding for Philippine Project

The agreement between Gazasia and Aboitiz Equity Ventures was signed in London today

7 June 2012

London, UK based waste to biofuel specialist, Gazasia is to begin development of a vehicle fuel made from organic waste products from landfill in the Philippines.

The company said that it has signed an agreement with Philippine power, financial services and food group, Aboitiz Equity Ventures (PSE: AEV) that secures $150 million of investment to fund the development of plants to create liquid biomethane from organic waste.

According to Gazasia, vehicle fuel prices in Asia have risen sharply over the last year and are expected to continue rising. Many governments throughout the region are subsidising fuel costs but have insufficient resources to maintain their subsidies indefinitely.

“The impact of higher vehicle fuel prices has been especially severe in South East Asia,” explained Richard Lilleystone, CEO of Gazasia.

“Public transport is essential to the workforce. Rising fuel costs have a direct impact on transport costs and food prices, which of course has the greatest impact on those least able to afford it,” he added.

The company said by cleaning and refining the natural gas produced by organic waste found in landfill sites it can create liquid biomethane- a carbon-neutral, sustainable and high-quality vehicle fuel.

According to Gazasia, in the Philippines, as throughout much of the world, landfill remains the most common means of waste disposal. However, left unmanaged it creates potentially damaging gases, including methane and carbon dioxide.

The company also claimed that the use of biomethane as a vehicle fuel is growing across the world, and particularly in South East Asia, and that it is an economical alternative to oil-based fuels that has a positive impact on air quality

‘Question is how urgently we need it’

Cheung Chi-fai
South China Morning Post
June 8, 2012
Waste incineration will become a reality sooner or later if the city’s rubbish continues to grow unchecked, says architect Dr Wong Kam-sing, who is tipped to head the Environment Bureau in the next administration.

Wong, 49, the former vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said solid waste was a pressing problem and the public should ask themselves why Hong Kong produced so much of it.

As for incineration, he said it was “a matter of time and size ¦ the question is how urgently we need it and how large or small it will be. If it is done well, incineration can convert waste into energy too”, he said.

Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’ s manifesto champions waste reduction at source and vows to eliminate food waste before considering incineration.

But Wong did not reveal what measures would be considered to minimise waste generation.

Lawmakers on the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel have refused to support a HK$14.96 billion incinerator proposed for Shek Kwu Chau, south of Lantau, saying the next administration might not want it.

Wong said another challenge for the new environment chief to face were the ever-increasing power tariffs. He said Hong Kong could consider following Macau in adopting a structure that promoted energy savings. “For those who consume more power, they might be charged a higher rate. For those small and medium enterprises or small households, they should be rewarded for using less,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Environment Bureau yesterday said power companies were planning to offer more consumption data, such as carbon emissions and average per capita power usage, in the power bills of domestic households, in response to the report of the Council for Sustainable Development on combating climate change.

Wong is a member of the Council’s subgroup that compiled the report.

Copyright 2012 South China Morning Post Ltd. All Rights Reserved

South China Morning Post