WWF's response to 2019-20 Policy Address: The Environment is Our Future | WWF Hong Kong

WWF's response to 2019-20 Policy Address: The Environment is Our Future

Posted
16 October 2019


The Chief Executive for the 2019/20 Policy Address has focused on pressing issues facing our community surrounding housing, land supply, livelihood improvement, economic development, and the need for an inclusive society and liveable city. However, we are concerned by the lack of attention paid to our Environment. We are discouraged by the lack of a holistic approach to ensuring a healthy and productive environment by the Government’s Policy Agenda. We had hoped to see the Government embrace a bolder vision to deliver more on sustainable city issues and, thereby, transform Hong Kong into Asia’s most sustainable city and offer a New deal for People and Nature. We emphasize the leadership role of Government in delivering a sustainable and livable city for everyone.

We welcome the electric vehicle charging-enabling infrastructure pilot subsidy scheme in the Policy Address as it is in line with our call for a low carbon city but we would like to see bolder action be done in view of the urgency of climate crisis we are now facing. We suggest the Government phase out all sales of petrol-and/or diesel-based private vehicles by 2030 and transit to all EV by 2050 for a carbon-neutral transport goal. This will enable Hong Kong to remain competitive internationally on sustainability as other countries and cities have already set out concrete timeline to phase out sales of private vehicles powered by fossil fuel in the coming decades.

Regarding the land supply issue, WWF is conservative on invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance on ecologically-sensitive private land. We reiterate our position that reclamation should not be considered while there are other options available. “Development should not be at the expense of conservation for our future generations. Putting rocks into the sea is not a good way to treat our planet. We regard brownfield development a priority option and expand the marine protected areas network is necessary before considering reclamation,’ says David Olson, Director of Conservation WWF-Hong Kong.

We would like to see support for action in five areas where WWF-Hong Kong has submitted our recommendations earlier this year, as these remain important and all deserve consideration as a holistic solution to a more sustainable city.

 

1. Decarbonisation with a clear & regulated target to limit global heating to 1.5°C


We are encouraged by the Government’s consultation on decarbonisation this year although the policy address did not address decarbonisation policy. Yet, WWF would like to see the Government commit to limiting global warming to 1.5°C and scale out its initiatives on climate action and introduce a decarbonisation financing scheme that replicates the success of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects within Government properties to all open spaces and privately-owned buildings. It is now time to establish a mandatory climate change mitigation and adaptation building scheme to all new and existing buildings.

“If there is one area where our city could come to a consensus it should be that we need demonstrable and bold actions to address the climate crisis and global heating that is affecting our community. We consider it essential to set a 10% renewable energy target by 2030 and implement low-carbon pilot villages in local communities powered by solar energy. We would also recommend establishment here in Hong Kong of an extensive, whole landscape-scale native-species reforestation program for extant grassland areas to contribute to cost-effective carbon sequestration with a view to making Hong Kong more low-carbon. This is something that our whole community could now get behind.” notes Karen Ho, Head of Corporate and Community Sustainability, WWF Hong Kong.
 

2. Securing the future for land of ecological importance


“The policy address fails to address private land of ecological importance to be protected by effective statutory land use planning and control system. This land is vulnerable to unauthorized habitat destruction activities, modification of land use and development pressure. We are disappointed that the Government still not advanced the promise, under the New Nature Conservation Policy to explore the feasibility of formulating a conservation trust back in 2004. We view that conservation trust can provide feasible alternatives to the landowners to resolve the current land rights deadlock, while securing land for biodiversity conservation through negotiation and long-term financing.” comments Peter Cornthwaite, CEO WWF Hong Kong.
 

3. Increase Hong Kong’s Integration of Sustainably Produced/Marketed Natural Resources and Decrease its Ecological Footprint


Last year’s Policy Address suggested a feasibility study on regulating disposable tableware but the result is yet to be seen. We would like to see bolder action to deliver a phasing out all single-use plastic tableware upon completion of the Government’s consultancy in 2021 and ban all polystyrene tableware by 2022.

Now is the time to address the gap between awareness and action on sustainability which still exists in Hong Kong. Our community is aware and calling on Government for policies that support sustainable lifestyles to decreade our impact on biological resources such as shark fin, seafood, paper and in use of non-biological resources, such as plastic. Regulation of pre-packaged seafood products labelling and developing a ‘credit-rebate’ system are necessary parts of the solution. We feel it is time to pick up the pace on Government’s consultancy on single-use plastic tableware and develop a regulated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system for plastic packaging and tableware in the supermarket and food and beverage industry.
 

4. Expand Marine Protected Areas and save declining Chinese white dolphin


We are disappointed that protective measures of safeguarding our precious marine ecosystems are not considered in the policy address, including Chinese white dolphin conservation, holistic marine spatial planning, and fishery resources management. In contrast, the reclamation plan is reiterated in this policy address to tackle shortages of land supply for housing development. According to the Census and Statistic Department’s reports Hong Kong Population Projections 2017-2066 and Hong Kong Domestic Household Projections up to 2051, Hong Kong’s population will start declining by 2043 and the number of households will increase by 439,800 units up to 2051. However, as per the Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2018, over 310,000 housing units can be provided through rezoning of some 210 sites. Besides, the promulgated new town development projects can provide at least 210,000units. It seems that the above can accommodate the future household increase as projected by the Census and Statistics Department. Therefore, it would seem land shortage over the long- term is being overstated.

Reclamation should only be considered as a last resort to creating new land for future use, WWF urges the Hong Kong government to withdraw studies related to reclamation at Central Waters Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands and Lung Kwu Tan. The ecological value in these areas is well-recognised.

Time is short if we are to save the declining Chinese white dolphin (CWD) and we urgently need to establish a Dolphin Conservation Management Zone across the Western and Southern Lantau waters to stabilise and recover the remaining dolphin population by expanding and connecting the existing marine parks to establish a science-based, well-connected, and well-managed network of critical foraging, socializing, and resting habitats. In particular, we consider it essential to require development projects to robustly assess the impacts of construction on local CWD as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the future.

Government needs to fulfil Hong Kong’s obligation under the Convention of Biological Diversity and its own actions planned for dolphins and other marine species under the Government’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The Policy Address has not addressed an issue that cannot wait any longer.

“WWF urges the Hong Kong government to withdraw studies related to reclamation at east Lantau We propose feasibility studies for the establishment of MPAs covering 30% of waters in Hong Kong, to identify a network of science-based strict no-take reserves, fisheries management zones, community-based fisheries reserves, and other marine protected area designations. We would look forward to policies to designate and manage an expanded network of strict no-take zones embedded within the MPA system as they have enormous biodiversity and fisheries benefits when properly configured and enforced.” notes Laurence McCook PhD , Head of WWF’s Oceans Conservation.
 

5. Treat wildlife crime as a serious crime to comply with Hong Kong’s international obligations


This is an area sadly missed in the Policy address that in any case needs urgent attention as Hong Kong has the notorious reputation of being a global illegal wildlife trading hub and it is necessary for Hong Kong to honour its international obligations outlined in the APEC agreements. WWF feels the Government needs to get serious with and tackle the trafficking and related corruption, such as money laundering, by including wildlife crime offences under Schedule 1 of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance to further deter transnational criminal enterprises who use Hong Kong as a route for wildlife smuggling. WWF is calling for strengthening of communications between the Government and the Wildlife Crime Task Force to work more closely with CITES Enforcement Coordination Group, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime and other regional Wildlife Enforcement Networks. Hong Kong authorities need to be more effective in identifying and tackling illegally sourced, exported, or re-exported wildlife products.

A full submission of our recommendations for the Policy Address 2019/20 is available on: https://wwf.hk/33wTd5Z