WWF’s response to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2018-19 Policy Address | WWF Hong Kong

WWF’s response to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2018-19 Policy Address

10 October 2018

WWF-Hong Kong is disappointed with Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s second policy address to the Legislative Council on 10 October 2018, in particular with her tackling land supply issues by down-playing a ‘brownfield first’ development policy, while highlighting East Lantau Metropolis Reclamation as the primary option.  Conservation should not be compromised for the sake of development.  We are adamant about making brownfield development a priority, and expanding marine protected areas (MPAs)  before considering reclamation.  It’s our vision to transform Hong Kong into Asia’s most sustainable city, where nature is conserved, carbon emissions are reduced, and consumption is environmentally responsible. 
Samantha Lee, WWF’s Assistant Director of Oceans Conservation said, 
“We are deeply disappointed with Ms. Lam’s reclamation proposal because the final report from the Land Supply Task Force will only be released by the end of this year.  Her proposal in the policy address shows that she not only ignored the process, but also the result of the land supply consultation.  Also, the Land Supply Task Force had previously mentioned that that only 1,000 hectares will be reclaimed, which will fulfil Hong Kong’s housing needs and future development.  There is no justification to increase the reclamation area to 1,700 hectares.  The reclamation of East Lantau Metropolis will be the largest reclamation project in Hong Kong’s history, however, the loss of habitat and change of hydrology will be permanent, and bring forth a huge negative impact on marine ecology and the livelihoods of Hong Kong fishermen. The damage from reclamation is irreversible and the health of our sea will, unfortunately, further deteriorate”. 
The following are WWF-Hong Kong’s response to Carrie Lam’s second Policy Address: 
  • Brownfield development must be the first option to enhance land supply. The land sharing pilot scheme proposed over 1000 hectare of privately-owned land including actively-managed farmland; fallow arable land with agricultural and/ or ecological values; and farmland with rehabilitation potential, which should be preserved for agricultural use.  Timetable for strengthening the Waste Disposal Ordinance in preventing illegal waste dumping at private land especially those with high ecological values (e.g. south Lantau) should be set.  The government should also review the Town Planning Ordinance to enable the Planning Department to take action against destruction at areas without land use plan.  

  • Reclamation should only be considered as a last resort in land supply policy. The government should immediately conduct a coastal and marine spatial planning exercise, aiming to strike a balance to first protect and provide resources to restore areas of conservation priority before considering reclamation-based development.  If reclamation were to be proposed, the government should always invite independent bodies, such as university or any academics, to conduct 3-5 years’ comprehensive terrestrial and marine research; and investigate the ecological baseline of the potential sites.  The current Environmental Impact Assessment system is obviously inadequate to safeguard sensitive habitats as evidenced by the recently  approved Offshore LNG Terminal EIA. 

  • There is an urgent need to protect existing marine life and habitats from increasing threats. 10% of Hong Kong waters should be designated as MPAs by 2020 and 30% by 2030, preferably with no take fishing zones within these MPAs.  We welcome the expansion of Sham Wan Restricted Area to cover green turtle’s breeding ground in the adjacent waters. In order to strengthen the conservation effectiveness, the government shall also study the feasibility of regulating recreational activities and restricting the number of vessels in the Sham Wan bay area. 

  • Put a stop to Hong Kong’s marine litter by tackling it at source. The government needs to develop strategies to intercept marine litter at rivers and storm drains with innovative measures, as well as enhance waste reduction and recycling in coastal areas to prevent pollution to the marine environment. The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments should collaborate further to tackle the litter sources especially along the Pearl River. 

  • Establish a statutory conservation trust now. The trust should be independent from the government, backed by legislation to safeguard biodiversity management of private lands with high ecological value. 

  • Develop ambitious plan to combat climate change. The special report on global warming of 1.5oC published by IPCC indicated that current pledges under Paris Agreement is not enough.  The government needs to set an aggressive target for renewable energy of 10% by 2030 and strengthen policies to enhance building energy efficiency, together with the support of environmental financing. 

  • Wildlife smuggling should be included under Schedule 1 of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) to further deter transnational criminal enterprises who use Hong Kong as a hub for illegal wildlife trade.  The government must strictly implement CITES, ensuring that the relevant regulations are effectively and comprehensively enforced in the port and in businesses.
Earlier this year, WWF was encouraged by the government’s actions to phase out the ivory trade by 2021 and the increases in maximum penalties for wildlife crimes offences.  We also welcomed the Feed-in tariff (FiT) rate set at $3-5/kWh for small-scale solar and wind system installations and the relaxation height restriction; and the government’s commitment to green finance.  These are initiatives that will help achieve the goal of making Hong Kong Asia’s most sustainable city.