on 20 March 1998
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 106 - MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES
New Capital Account Subhead Grant to Environment and Conservation Fund
Members are invited to approve a grant of $50illion to the Environment and Conservation Fund.
The Environment and Conservation Fund (the Fund) requires additional capital injection from Government to enable it to support new and worthwhile educational, research and other projects and activities in promoting conservation and environmental protection.
2.We propose to make a grant of $50illion to the Fund.
3.Established in August 1994 under the Environment and Conservation Fund Ordinance (Cap. 450), the Fund provides financial support for educational, research and other projects and activities in relation to environmental and conservation matters. Finance Committee approved on 24 June 1994 the initial capital injection of $50 million to the Fund. Since then, the Fund has relied on its capital sum and bank interest accruing from its unspent balance to finance worthwhile projects and activities in relation to environmental and conservation matters. The detailed funding criteria are at the Enclosure.
4.Typically, projects supported by the Fund include those undertaken by community groups and the core environmental education projects of the Environmental Campaign Committee. Research projects relating to environmental and conservation matters with potential for practical application or with good possibilities for raising public awareness have also been selected for funding. The approved projects cover a wide spectrum of environmental and conservation issues. While projects approved for funding are at various stages of implementation, there are good indications that the projects funded are giving results conducive to strengthening environmental education and raising public awareness in environmental protection and conservation. The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) is the trustee of the Fund. He is responsible for monitoring the progress of the on-going projects and ensuring that they will give the intended results and benefits.
5. As at 14 February 1998, the Fund has financed 203 projects with a total commitment of $25 million. These include 172 educational projects and 31 research projects. In addition, the Fund has granted $25.6 million to the Environmental Campaign Committee for carrying out its annual educational and awareness programmes. As a result, about 87% of the Fund's total resources of $58.2 million (made up of the $50 million initial Government injection and $8.2 million interest income) have been used up. This leaves the Fund with an uncommitted balance of about $7.6 million.
6. Judging from the enthusiastic response from environmental groups and other research and educational bodies, we anticipate more applications to the Fund for financial support. Also, as applicants are becoming more familiar with the objectives and requirements of the Fund, they are likely to submit more worthwhile projects and better proposals which would be a pity to turn down because of lack of funds. In particular, we expect green groups and other community groups to submit additional applications relating to waste reduction and recycling under the Waste Reduction Plan which will be implemented in mid-1998. We believe that active participation of non-governmental organisations in promoting awareness and in coming up with innovative schemes would be particularly helpful in waste reduction programmes, the success of which is dependent upon community involvement. We therefore propose to grant an additional $50 million to the Fund. This will enable the Fund to continue to provide financial support to new and worthwhile projects to complement our efforts in combating pollution.
7. The proposed grant of $50 million to the Fund is one-off in nature. There are no other additional financial or staffing implications. If Members approve the proposal, we will provide supplementary provision of $50 million in 1997-98 through delegated authority.
INVESTMENT CRITERIA/CONTROL MECHANISM
8. The Environment and Conservation Fund Ordinance empowers SPEL as the trustee to invest the fund money. Unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise, money not required for immediate disbursement is invested in the form of fixed bank deposits to secure safe and steady returns.
9. Under the Environment and Conservation Fund Ordinance, SPEL has been appointed as the trustee responsible for the administration of the Fund. The Environment and Conservation Fund Committee comprising officials and non-officials advises him on the use of the Fund. The Ordinance requires the trustee to table at the Legislative Council annually the audited statement of accounts and his report on the administration of the Fund.
10. Apart from the general publicity vote of the Information Services Department, other major sources of support for environmental education and research activities include the Hong Kong Jockey Club, green funds established by the private sector and ad-hoc private donations. However, these resources generally serve a different purpose than that of the Environment and Conservation Fund.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
Enclosure to FCR(97-98)103
Funding Criteria of the Environment and Conservation Fund
Only applications from non-profit-making bodies and community groups will be considered for funding support. The following broad criteria are used in assessing the merits of individual applications -
- Projects selected for funding support will be expected to contribute to the overall environment of Hong Kong, to raise environmental awareness of the local community, or to mobilise the community to take action to improve the environment.
- The benefits must accrue to the local community as a whole, and not just an individual, a single private organisation or a consortium of private companies.
- Projects should be non-profit-making in nature. Income derived from a project should be used to further the project's aims.
- In considering a project proposal, due consideration will be given to -
- the benefits it will bring to Hong Kong's environment, ecology, flora and fauna etc., or the extent to which it will enhance the environmental awareness of the local community;
- whether there is a demonstrable need for the proposed project;
- the technical and project management capability of the applicant;
- whether the proposed project's schedule of implementation is well-planned and the duration reasonable;
- whether the proposed budget is reasonable and realistic;
- whether the proposed project has alternative sources of funding support;
- whether the proposed project should more appropriately be funded by other sources;
- whether there is or likely to be a duplication of the work already or currently carried out by other groups; and
- if recurrent expenditure is incurred, whether the proposed project has potential to become self-sufficient after a certain period of time.