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August 13th, 2014:

Third runway’s sky-high emissions


Cheung Chi-fai

Airport study says carbon footprint could hit 269 million tonnes, higher than Greenpeace’s figure. But it says cost to society is much lower

Having a third airport runway will increase carbon emissions by up to 269 million tonnes in 50 years and this will come at a cost of about HK$50 billion, a study has found.

The emissions estimate from the study, commissioned by the Airport Authority, is higher than Friends of the Earth’s estimate in November that the runway would cause up to 216 million tonnes of extra emissions in 50 years. But the estimated cost is far below Friends of the Earth’s figure of between HK$200 billion and HK$630 billion.

Activists have accused the authority of turning a blind eye to the snowballing level of carbon emissions and asked if the social and environmental costs were worth paying.

The authority commissioned environmental consultancy ERM to conduct the carbon-cost study for the third runway last year.

According to the results released yesterday, the airport’s carbon emissions will peak at 27 million tonnes by 2031 – 62 per cent higher than its 2011 level.

The extra carbon that the third runway will generate ranges from 36 million to 269 million tonnes for the 50 years until 2061, depending on the method of calculation used.

One method – which gives a lower estimate – is to count emissions from planes taking off, landing and cruising within the city’s boundaries. Another, which gives a higher figure, takes into account all the carbon emitted during the entirety of a flight that takes off or lands in the city.

The study’s estimate of the cost of the emissions also depends on which method of calculation is used.

Friends of the Earth adopted pricing based on how much it would cost to keep global temperatures from rising beyond a relatively safe limit.

But the authority’s study calculated the social cost of carbon based on the damage that would be caused by climate change. At about HK$271 per tonne, the carbon cost of having a third runway would range from HK$7 billion to HK$50 billion.

Wilson Fung Wing-yip, the authority’s corporate development executive director, said this cost was small compared with the HK$480 billion of economic benefits the runway would bring.

But Greenpeace campaigner Argo Yeung Man-yau said the latest study confirmed that a third runway would bring “high carbon but low economic benefits”.

Yeung said carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emissions for every dollar of gross domestic product – for the runway could be as high as 0.56kg, which is 25 times the entire city’s carbon intensity in 2011. “We are clearly heading away from building a green economy,” he said.

Friends of the Earth’s Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said the authority had failed to offer any effective solution to minimise the airport’s carbon footprint.

Standard: ‘Wishful thinking’ on dolphins slammed

The Airport Authority announced four extra measures to help conserve Chinese white dolphins after work on the proposed third runway is complete.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Airport Authority announced four extra measures to help conserve Chinese white dolphins after work on the proposed third runway is complete.

That came in a meeting with an Environmental Protection Department subcommittee, which criticized the authority for “wishful thinking” that dolphins fleeing their Lantau habitat will return.

Authority general manager Peter Lee Chung-tang said traffic volume at SkyPier would be capped at 99 ferry trips per day, originally predicted to rise to 115 in 2021 and 130 in 2030.

And to be funded is a marine ecology conservation management plan for the dolphins in south Lantau waters.

Night studies will be carried out on dolphin activity and funding provided for a conservation strategy in the Pearl River Estuary. The authority submitted its environmental impact assessment report to the related subcommittee under the EPD’s Advisory Council on the Environment at the meeting, which continues tomorrow and Monday.

Dolphin specialists Thomas Jefferson and Bernd Wursig, advisers to the authority on the report, said dolphins are smart and it is believed they will return after work on the third runway is over.

But subcommittee vice chairman Hung Wing-tat, associate professor of civil and structural engineering at Polytechnic University, criticized the EIA report for lacking scientific evidence.

Hung said: “I swear it is wishful thinking. If there is a piece of scientific evidence, I will take back my words.” KENNETH LAU

SCMP: Incinerator will create toxic ash with poisonous emissions

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:16am

Comment› Letters

In his letter to supposedly correct “misunderstandings” by opponents of the planned Shek Kwu Chau incinerator (“Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]”, August 5), Elvis W. K, Au, assistant director of environmental protection, added yet more disinformation on the project.

Au boasted that the facility will adopt proven technology, yet omitted to mention that this technology creates toxic ash along with poisonous emissions, with adverse health impacts described in peer-reviewed research.

Were the incinerator emissions clean, it could be sited beside the government’s Tamar offices, so officials like Au could admire it each day. Yet instead, it is to be beside a relatively remote island.

It seems laughable to claim this choice of location arises through trying to “achieve a more balanced distribution of waste facilities”. But then, Au and colleagues have made a host of absurd claims regarding the project.

For instance, the incinerator with its 150-metre chimney can somehow blend with the surroundings – in an area of outstanding natural beauty; the reclamation and operations will not adversely affect the globally endangered finless porpoise; and, the incinerator will even benefit local tourism.

To those of us living on Cheung Chau, this last claim is a joke. More serious is Au’s previous habit of wrongly claiming the incinerator can completely destroy organic pollutants, which reflects an inadequate understanding of the basic chemistry and health risks, and is disturbing coming from an official supposedly helping safeguard our environment.

Au even played fast and loose with financial information in striving to show the incinerator will be “cost effective”. In his letter, he cited a capital cost of about HK$12.7 billion, which may be the first time this figure has been published, as in March 2012 the anticipated cost was HK$14.96 billion.

Conveniently, too, Au omitted to mention that because the incinerator and its island will take perhaps eight years or more to build, landfills must be extended, at an additional cost of HK$12 billion – making the real incinerator project bill nearer to a hefty HK$27 billion, which will rise when costs soar, as they are wont to do for infrastructure schemes.

In rejecting plasma arc facilities as being small scale with limited performance tracks, Au further demonstrated his blinkered approach, ignoring the large-scale facilities being commissioned and built in the UK, and planned for several countries including China.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors