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Airport board thumbs nose at international best practice


Howard Winn
May 09, 2012

We wrote yesterday about the motion that was passed by Legco’s environmental affairs panel recently asking the Hong Kong Airport Authority to undertake a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study, a carbon audit and a strategic impact assessment on the proposed third runway. Legco motions of this kind are not legally binding so we asked the authority what arrangements it was making for these studies, and how long it expected them to take. We received the following snotty reply: “The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is adopted by most developed countries as a statutory requirement, including [the] US, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia. However, there is no widely recognised methodology for conducting social costs assessments. The Airport Authority (AA) will ensure full compliance with the prevailing statutory EIA requirements, which are of international standard. In developing … a three-runway system, the AA will study and handle environmental issues in a highly prudent manner as always, and will explore every possible way to avoid and mitigate any environmental impact that might arise, including marine ecology, noise and air quality.” From this it doesn’t look as if the authority has any intention of carrying out any of these studies. Not only does it have the temerity to wave two fingers at Lai See but it’s also giving the same salute to Legco.

On its website the authority describes itself as “a responsible corporate citizen”. The United Nations and the World Bank consider these studies best practice so you would have thought “a responsible corporate citizen”, could come up with a better response than this. Yesterday, the authority held a ceremony in which it bragged about its pledge to make the Hong Kong International Airport “the world’s greenest airport”.

The Legco motion was supported by all the main parties, including Liberal party member Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who is also a member of the authority’s board. When we told her that we didn’t think the authority was planning to act on the motion she said she would inquire what it planned to do, adding that although she supported the third runway, “I think they ought to do more than what is just legally required. I understand that infrastructure of this massive nature needs to have the support and understanding of the wider community.” If the airport authority is so convinced of its green credentials why won’t it carry out an SROI study? Over to you, Stanley Hui Hon-chung.

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