File Ref. : PELB(P)50/06/102

Provisional Legislative Council Brief
Panel on Planning, Lands and Works &
Panel on Environmental Affairs

Study on Sustainable Development for
the 21st Century
Consultation Meeting


On behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government, Environment Resources Management - Hong Kong Limited (ERM) is conducting a major study about Sustainable Development in Hong Kong, SUSDEV 21. A key element of the Study is to encourage the widest possible public participation. This paper aims to brief Members on SUSDEV 21, and to engage Members' opinions for the formulation of a definition of sustainability in the Hong Kong context. ERM will attend the consultation meeting with Members to facilitate discussion and address any questions concerning sustainability.


2. The publication of the Bruntland Report in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development has drawn world-wide attention to the concept of sustainable development. This concept was formally adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 and the Conference agreed on a blueprint of achieving sustainable development, commonly referred to as Agenda 21. In addition, APEC strongly reinforced the goal of sustainable development at its meeting in Manila in July 1996.

3. The basic principles and elements of Agenda 21 are given in the attached documents, "The Elements of Agenda 21" (Annex A) and the "Summary of Principles Underlying Agenda 21" (Annex B)


4. In order to map out Hong Kong's own strategy on sustainable development, the SUSDEV 21 Study was launched by the Planning Department on 1 September 1997 through the appointment of consultants, ERM- Hong Kong, Ltd., and is targeted for completion before the turn of the century. The attached Study Programme at Annex C illustrates study progress to date and future targets.

5. The objectives of SUSDEV 21 are as follows:

  1. define what "sustainability" should mean for Hong Kong

  2. develop guiding values, sustainability indicators and criteria covering the economic, social and environmental objectives of society;

  3. conduct baseline economic, social and environmental studies for the SAR, relevant to the aims and objectives of the Study;

  4. develop a "sustainable Development System" (SDS) within the Government to facilitate policy initiatives so that they are mutually supportive. This will comprise a set of decision support tools and institutional recommendations. The decision support tools will allow evaluation of individual project or policy by showing how the social, economic and environmental baselines will be altered due to the proposed project or policy. Various inputs from stakeholders are required for formulating the sustainability indicators, criteria and sustainable development system;

  5. test and refine the sustainability indicators, criteria and sustainable development system;

  6. identify policy and /or institutional areas that may need to be improved with respect to a more integrated decision making mechanism;

  7. obtain the widest possible public participation throughout the study process, and bring to the attention of the community the importance of sustainable development.

6. The Study has made good progress, and has produced so far the following Reports:

  1. an International Review;

  2. a Review of Development Trends in the Pearl River Delta and Related Trans-boundary Issues;

  3. a Review of Relevant, Completed and Ongoing Studies which will form the basis for the forthcoming socio-economic and environmental baseline studies

Summaries of the above Reports are attached at Annexes D to F respectively.


7. The success of implementation of sustainable development in Hong Kong will depend, to a large extent, on the understanding and involvement of the entire community. Hence, as a crucial part of the Study, a two-phased public consultation strategy has been designed.

8. The first phase would be launched at the beginning of the Study. Its objectives are to promote understanding and awareness of sustainable development as well as to collect public views for the formulation of a definition of sustainability for Hong Kong. To the general public, many concepts associated with sustainable development are not well defined nor understood. It is therefore necessary to gain a wide-spread understanding of the concept that environment and social and economic development are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but rather the basis of sustainable development is the merging of the goals of improving socio-economic conditions and at the same time enhancing environmental well-being. The major activities will include the following :

  1. exhibitions, including a video, at five popular locations;

  2. distribution of a Public Information Digest;

  3. consultation with stakeholder groups;

  4. a SUSDEV 21 website;


9. The stakeholders' consultation would convey key messages tailored-made for various interest groups, including various stakeholder groups; Government and elected bodies; academics; professionals; Non-Government Organizations and the business sector. The second phase of the public consultation programme would be conducted towards the end of the Study. The objective is to collect feedback on the proposed SDS developed during the course of the Study. The key messages for the second consultation would be detailed at a later stage.

10. In order to develop the SDS, input from stakeholders will be required in two fundamental aspects. The first aspect is to formulate "guiding values" that are accepted by all stakeholders and reflect Hong Kong's unique qualities and challenges. "Guiding values" are broad societal objectives that reflect the beliefs and concepts which are important to society and its people. They may be tangible objectives, such as GDP, living space and air quality, or subjective, such as affordability of housing or quality of life. Guiding values will be developed mainly through consultation with the key public groups and stakeholders. Secondly, stakeholders' input is also required in selecting the "indicators" which will reflect the guiding values. "Indicators" are parameters or measures that can be quantified and used to assess the implications of proposed projects. Upon review of this document and discussions at the Consultation Meeting, Members are invited to express their views on the attached "Issues of Potential Relevance to Indicators Development for SUSDEV 21" at Annex G and return it to the Director of Planning, Attention: Miss Fiona Lung, 16/F North Point Government Offices, 333 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong.

11. If you have any inquiries regarding this paper, please contact Mr Bosco Fung, Deputy Direct or Mr Augustine Ng, Chief Town Planner of Planning Department at 2231 4601 and 2231 4660 respectively.


A The Elements of Agenda 21

B Summary of Principles Underlying Agenda 21

C Study Programme

D International Review

E Review of Development Trends in the Pearl River Delta and Related Trans-boundary Issues

F Review of Relevant, Completed and Ongoing Studies

G Issues of Potential Relevance to Indicators Development for SUSDEV 21

Planning Department

19 March 1998