Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
Ms Sarah YUEN, SAS(1)1
Mrs Mary TANG, SAS(1)2
Mr Alfred CHAU, SAS(SD)3
(LegCo Paper No. PL946/95-96, LegCo Paper No.PL 948/95-96, LegCo Paper No. PL989/95-96, LegCo Paper No. PL1105/95-96 and LegCo Paper No. PL1106/95-96)
The notes of the meetings held on 16 January 1996, 30 January 1996, 3 February 1996, 7 February 1996 and 9 February 1996 were confirmed.
(Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. PL1119/95-96)
2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next two regular meetings:
- Centralised incineration facility (jointly with Health Services Panel); and
- Demographic projections (invitation to be extended to all Members, particularly those on the Financial Affairs Panel).
- Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century
3. Members also agreed to hold a special meeting on 15 April 1996 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the review of charges for the disposal of chemical waste at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC). It was agreed that invitation would be extended to the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and the Textiles and Clothing Committee of the Industry & Technology Development Council, which had sent in submissions to the Panel urging for greater transparency of CWTCs operating cost and the establishment of a price monitoring mechanism. The Administration undertook to prepare for the special meeting a consolidated reply to the above submissions.
(Appendix II to LegCo Paper No. PL1119/95-96)
4. Dr M M LAU briefed Members on the background of the Waste Reduction Study (the Study). She explained that much of the emphasis of the Study was put on the handling of the escalating quantity of municipal waste, and that further efforts could be made to increase the recovery of waste. Although about 8% of the domestic waste and 53% of the commercial/industrial wastes were recovered under the current recovery and recycling systems, there was scope for further increasing the recovery rates. The sharp increase of waste would escalate waste management costs from $2.5 billion in 1996 to $3.5 billion by 2005, and pose considerable pressure on the existing landfill sites which would be exhausted in 2012. Incineration using state-of-the-art technology was only a partial solution. As a result, there was a need to adopt a full range of waste reduction measures as an essential component of a sustainable waste management scheme.
5. Mr David Arthur then briefed Members on the findings and recommendations of the Study. The consultants, in devising measures appropriate to the special conditions prevailing in Hong Kong, conducted a range of surveys and compared Hong Kongs waste situation to a number of countries in the SE Asia region and in Europe for the period 1980-1990. Results showed that although Hong Kongs waste growth was lower than that of other countries in the Southeast Asian region, it was more than twice the highest rate in Europe. Waste reduction measure in use elsewhere in the region and in Europe were reviewed and their potential for modification for use in Hong Kong assessed. These included policy, legislative, fiscal and other measures encompassing waste reduction technologies such as incineration with energy recovery and composting. In the report which had already been published for consultation and circulated to Members of the Panel, the consultants had recommended an integrated ten-year programme of waste initiatives aiming at reducing municipal waste in 2005 to 30% less than the anticipated 1996 level. These initiatives included voluntary participation programmes, carrot and stick measures and application of bulk waste reduction technology. The consultants further recommended that as an initial start, the Government should adopt a voluntary approach and build on the existing waste reduction initiatives. Should this approach fail, a mandatory mechanism would need to be considered following a full review after year 4 of the Programme.
6. While endorsing the spirit of the consultants recommendations, some Members queried the viability of adopting a voluntary approach in Hong Kong, bearing in mind that the general publics awareness of environmental protection was still very low. Members were more in favour of a two-pronged approach encompassing both voluntary and compulsory measures. In response, representatives of the Administration explained that one of the purposes of the public consultation exercise was to assess the acceptability of mandatory measures. The Administrations assessment at the moment was that there would be significant opposition to mandatory measures from the industries which were paying for waste disposal. It was therefore important to maintain a balance between the need to reduce waste and the financial burden on the industries. The present proposal of adopting a voluntary approach as a start was to see how far it was effective in curbing waste growth. The Government would set targets with different sectors of the community and let them decide how to achieve the targets. In so doing, positive incentives such as support in grants would be provided. It was only after these efforts failed that the Government would introduce some of the mandatory measures now held in abeyance.
7. Responding to a Members comment that the Consultants Waste Reduction expectations might be too ambitious, Mr A G Cooper explained that the Administration realised that it had to carry out some pilot schemes and might have to revise the Plan according to the trial results. Members were informed that one of the first things the specialised waste reduction team had to do would be to map out such pilot schemes.
8. As regards the cost-saving aspect of the consultants waste reduction recommendations, while some Members agreed that the community should be prepared to pay for environmental protection so as to enhance the quality of life, others queried whether there would be real savings in waste management costs even after the waste reduction targets were achieved. They pointed out that the Administration should also take into account the capital investment and extra efforts made by the industries as well as the community in following the waste reduction arrangements.
9. In response, representatives of the Administration reiterated that the proposed waste reduction measures would cut down on the need for landfilling. This would produce savings in capital expenditure and generate environmental and health benefits for the community. The Administration also stressed that the reason for the lack of actions on the industries part was not the extra capital investment incurred, but the failure to acknowledge the need to do something about waste reduction as Hong Kong industries had all along been paying very little for the waste management system. As a matter of fact, effective waste management measures could bring about savings for the industries on a long term basis from the improvements in the production process.
10. A Member suggested that as the Government was responsible for more than half of the construction projects in Hong Kong, it should take the lead in taking measures to reduce construction waste by using waste reduction construction methods. In response, Mr Cooper explained that construction waste was not within the scope of the Study, but the Administration was nevertheless working closely with the Hong Kong Construction Association to see what could be done in this area. At the Chairmans request, the Administration agreed to provide Members with a total picture of its waste reduction targets and timetable within a fifteen-year time frame for the Panels further deliberation.
11. Responding to a Members comment that the development of more incineration facilities might be a better solution to the waste disposal problem, representatives of the Administration emphasised that incineration was only part of the answer to waste disposal. It only addressed the symptoms and could not tackle the root of the problem. There was always some waste left. Moreover, incineration could create pollution, making it very difficult to find incinerator sites. Incineration was also very expensive and the construction cost for each incinerating plant could amount to some $2,900 million.
12. Members noted that the recommendations in the report only represented the views of the consultants. The Administration had not taken a stance on the subject and its aim was to devise a long-term plan based on the recommendations and feedback from the public. At the request of the Chairman, the Administration agreed to provide each Member of the Panel with a full report of the Study.
(Post-meeting Note: The Report was circulated to Members vide LegCo Paper N0. CB (1) 1238/95-96.)
13. Mr Bowen LEUNG briefed Members on the Third Review of Progress on the 1989 White Paper entitled Pollution in Hong Kong - a time to act (the Third Review) circulated to all LegCo Members earlier. It was reported that out of the 132 targets set out in the 1989 White Paper, 118 targets, i.e., about 90%, had been achieved or were progressing on schedule. The remaining 10% required further consultation or review.
14. In highlighting the future directions outlined in the Third Review Report, Mr LEUNG emphasised the importance of waste reduction and urged Members to support the Environmental Impact Assessment Bill first read on 31 January 1996. He stressed that though good progress had been made in waste treatment, water pollution control and noise control, air pollution in Hong Kong was still serious. He therefore urged Members to support that more work be done in this area. Mr LEUNG also highlighted the concept of sustainable development, which was the theme of the Third Review, and explained the need for conducting a large-scale survey to establish a mechanism for how related policies could be better integrated to reflect the long term goal of sustainability. Members noted that some of the main actions proposed for implementation in the next two years included a major consultancy study on Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century, a consultancy study on product-related environmental assessments relating to an eco-labelling system and the stepping up of efforts on environmental education. In short, the long-term general approach was to improve and conserve environment so as to provide a pleasant, liveable and prosperous city for the next generation.
15. A Member commented that the part of the Third Review Report on energy conservation should, instead of just focusing on electricity, mention work that could be done in other aspects as well, such as car control, etc.. In response, Mr LEUNG explained that the focus of energy conservation had been placed on electricity because it was still the main source of energy in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there were petrol economy publicity campaigns and the Administration was studying the applicability of electric cars in Hong Kong. He also emphasised that Hong Kongs situation was very unique in that the number of cars per kilometre was higher than most parts of the world. In controlling the growth of cars, the Administration had to balance energy conservation and air quality against transport needs. Mr LEUNG further emphasised that the general principle of energy conservation in Hong Kong was to encourage conservation without affecting the quality of life of its people. Members were referred to paragraphs 2.74 to 2.76 of the Report for details of the current energy conservation measures.
16. As to the role of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in accomplishing the targets set out in the 1989 White Paper and whether the Department should be expanded to become a branch under a Secretary for Environmental Protection (S for EP), Mr LEUNG emphasised that EPD was already the major implementation of the 1989 White Paper and local experience did not call for the establishment of a S for EP. EPD staff were also already performing significant roles on many important government committees. Moreover, sustainable development required an integrated approach that looked at accumulative effects on environment - this would involve many government departments as well as EPD, e.g., the Marine Department for collecting floating refuse and abating oil pollution, the Industry Department for advising industries on clean technologies, the Education Department for enhancing environmental awareness, etc.
17. As to why no new target dates had been set for delayed items in the 1989 White Paper, Mr LEUNG pointed out that new target dates had been set for all delayed items with the exception of targets that involved legislation. It was emphasised that Members assistance in speeding up the relevant legislative process was very important.
18. In reply to Members queries on the delayed closure of the Kwai Chung Incinerator, and whether it was Governments plan to phase out incineration, the Administration explained that the delay had been caused by the non-availability of replacement facility. While the Administration was studying the feasibility of a new model of incinerator, waste reduction and recycling were the only real solutions to the waste disposal problem.
19. To allow more in-depth deliberations on the Waste Reduction Study and the Third Review, Members agreed to hold two special meetings on 25 and 26 April 1996 to consolidate Members views on the above issues before further discussion with the Administration. The Chairman undertook to prepare a discussion paper for use as the basis for Members internal deliberations.
(Post-meeting-note: The discussion paper was circulated to Members vide LegCo Paper CB(1) 1222/95-96.)
20. The meeting ended at 10:40 a.m.
Last Updated on 18 Aug, 1998