WWF: A Development-Driven Policy Address Lacking Overall Sustainable Planning for Hong Kong, and Failing to Address Climate Change

Posted 10 October 2007

Reflecting the intentions revealed in the Hong Kong Government's reorganization in July this year, the 2007-08 Policy Address (the Address) is a development-driven blueprint guaranteeing more infrastructure projects for instant economy benefits, and completely lacking in vision for Hong Kong's natural environment and sustainability in planning.

WWF is disappointed that the current government continues its narrow view of continued infrastructure developments as the only way to sustain growth for Hong Kong, without responsibly evaluating how much environmental pressure this small SAR can take.

Without any balance to be struck between the "Progressive Development" highlighted in the Address and a healthy living environment, WWF believes by just building one or two more parks, a few green building tops or setting up a few more green funds for promoting public awareness falls far short of "Building a Green City" as expounded by Mr. Tsang.

What Hong Kong needs is far-sighted planning, laying out directions for the city's long-term growth and development without pushing our living quality to the edge. In a few paragraphs of the Address, the Government continuously stresses what role the public has to play in their everyday life to contribute to making a cleaner environment for Hong Kong, such as energy-saving electrical appliances, polluter-pays principles and recycling.

However, besides pledging some commitments to reduce carbon emissions of the new Central Government Complex at Tamar, we see no serious commitment anywhere in the Address by the Government to turn Hong Kong into a green city with blue skies and cutting-edge sustainable development.

"The measures are piecemeal and highly insufficient. The policy speech only cites one more (the 24th) country park that will be designated and patches of beautification works will be undertaken to help build a green city for Hong Kong. On the other hand, there is no mention of conserving the sea at all. It is one of our finest assets and urgently needs the creation of more marine reserves where marine life can recover. There is also no mention of looking at the cumulative impacts of the 10 massive infrastructure projects which we find disturbing," said Dr. Andy Cornish, Director of Conservation, WWF Hong Kong.

Measures to tackle the global threat of Climate Change will not result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

"The policy speech on climate change is misleading because it implies that the government is setting a challenging target. Yet the target of a 25% improvement in energy intensity agreed with other APEC countries will be achieved well before 2030 even if the government takes no additional action to combat climate change, because energy intensity has been improving naturally year-on-year for the last decade." said Liam Salter, Head of Climate Programme, WWF Hong Kong.

By comparison the Beijing government in its 11th Five Year Plan has set a target of 20% improvement in energy intensity between 2005 and 2010. The target is four times more ambitious than Mr Tsang's, reinforcing the increasingly clear picture that Beijing is well ahead of Hong Kong in responding to climate change.

"The APEC - Hong Kong target is equivalent to a reduction in energy intensity of about 1.2% per year. The Central Government's target is equivalent to a reduction of about 5.6% per year," Mr. Salter added.

HK should set a clear greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in the same way that it has set targets for air pollution. This will provide an unambiguous framework for assessing the government's progress in tackling climate change.