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WWF-Hong Kong’s response to 2022-23 Policy Address

WWF-Hong Kong’s response to 2022-23 Policy Address The Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, delivered his first Policy Address earlier today (19 October 2022). WWF-Hong Kong (WWF) agrees that the future development of Northern Metropolis needs a New Proactive Conservation Policy and recommends such policy should cover all of Hong Kong, including oceans. The government should conduct Strategic Environmental Assessments and mainstream conservation while ensuring environmental considerations are at the core of all major developments for the harmonious co-existence of development and conservation.

Build Sustainable Northern Metropolis

This year’s Policy Address mentioned gradual resumption of ecologically sensitive private wetlands and fish ponds for conservation. Nicole Wong, CEO of WWF-Hong Kong, commented, “WWF has over 40 years of experience in wetlands conservation and active management of Mai Po Nature Reserve. Every habitat within the area is an important and irreplaceable natural resource supporting numerous wildlife and local livelihoods. According to our latest interviews with local fishermen, nearly 90% of them expressed their willingness to continue managing fish ponds. The government’s future plan should consider the local fishermen’s livelihoods. These fish ponds can maintain or improve the local ecological value.”

WWF welcomes the designation of Robin’s Nest as a country park and creation of a cross-border ecological corridor between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. WWF recommends the government to ensure ecological connectivity between Robin’s Nest and Pat Sin Leng Country Park and implement an integrated cross-border management plan. We are keen to see similar synergistic conservation efforts in Deep Bay wetlands between the Shenzhen and Hong Kong governments.

WWF is concerned about the proposals to increase development intensity, amend the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) and further streamline administrative procedures, in particular the proposed “approval guidelines concerning developments in the wetland buffer area” (WBA). In principle, any development within WBA must strictly follow the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) and the general planning intention of Outline Zoning Plans. The government is responsible for protecting existing open spaces and natural assets, in line with Town Planning Board Guideline No. TPB PG-NO. 12C, and conserving ecologically sensitive areas.

Dr. Bosco Chan, Director, Conservation of WWF-Hong Kong, said, “Northern Metropolis should be built into a sustainable, liveable and climate-proof area to serve as best practice. Future development should be conservation-based and the government should safeguard the unique natural environment and rich biodiversity of the area by conducting a Strategic Environmental Assessment before formulating any concrete plans or actions, implementing nature-based solutions, building climate resilience and maintaining the integrity of the Deep Bay ecosystem.”

In relation to the formulation of Steering Committee and Advisory Committee on the Northern Metropolis by the government, WWF reiterates that any future policies must be conservation-based and the government should improve transparency and communication with the public. Northern Metropolis has extensive ecologically sensitive areas and it is important to ensure a two-way communication channel with stakeholders, including green groups. WWF calls for the establishment of a cross-bureau “Sustainable Northern Metropolis Office” to lead the integration and implementation of conservation policy.

This year’s Policy Address mentions the development of “Green Belt” areas, including identifying more land for development and exploring more options in the southern part of Lantau for eco-tourism or recreation uses. As “Green Belt” areas provide essential buffer zones from the city, WWF urges the government to publish its study results and disclose the areas earmarked for development to ensure sites of high ecological value are not affected.

Withdraw Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands Reclamation Plan

WWF reiterates that the government should withdraw the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands Reclamation Plan due to the unavoidable adverse impact on local cetaceans, coral communities and fisheries. Worse still, the Plan may expand areas of hypoxic waters, which would be catastrophic for both marine ecosystems and the living standard of Hong Kong residents.

Monitor and strengthen biodiversity

The Policy Address includes over one hundred KPIs but hardly any are related to Hong Kong’s biodiversity. WWF urges the government to set clear indicators to monitor the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation efforts, in particular the population trends of species of conservation concern. The results should, by 2025, be published in a biodiversity indicator report and be updated at regular intervals.

“WWF urges the government to establish and commit to a roadmap for an expanded and effective Marine Protected Areas network by 2023, which includes site-specific management plans and time-bound conservation goals, with the ultimate aim of covering 30% of Hong Kong waters by 2030.” said Lydia Pang, Interim Head of Oceans, Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.

Develop green and sustainable finance

WWF urges the government to adopt or develop an effective and credible sustainable finance taxonomy to strengthen Hong Kong's position as the leading green finance hub to attract domestic and foreign investments.

An efficient and effective carbon market requires high levels of transparency of both data and process, as well as verifiable mitigation outcomes, in order to avoid greenwashing. It should follow the supplementarity principle of the Kyoto Protocol and the “climate mitigation hierarchy”. Mitigation outcomes should not be double counted.

Please refer to details of WWF Policy Address recommendations here.
Mai Po Wetlands

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