Motion on “Fully Transforming into a Green and Low-Carbon Smart Society and Economy, and Proactively Alleviating and Coping with Global Climate Change” (2018.12.13)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, global warming has caused extreme weather conditions, hence Hong Kong has been hit by severe typhoons, notably Super Typhoon Mangkhut in September. The damage was unprecedented, with tens of thousands of trees being blown down. The onslaught of Mangkhut has, I believe, aroused public concern about environmental issues. The motion moved by Mr Martin LIAO today serves to remind us to rethink whether we are doing enough to protect the Earth?

Carbon dioxide is the culprit for greenhouse effect, and we must reduce carbon emissions. In fact, the Government has done a lot of work in this regard in recent years. I remember that when I joined this Council in early 2008, I became a member of the Panel on Environmental Affairs and worked with other Members to urge the Government to provide $31 billion for replacing old diesel commercial vehicles. During my tenure of office, the Government also introduced legislation to ban idling engines, negotiated an emissions reduction agreement with the Guangdong province and enacted the Air Pollution Control Ordinance. The significant improvement in air pollution well reflects the Government’s great effort in promoting environmental protection.

Yet, the Government’s work in other areas has so far been unsatisfactory, particularly the promotion of electric vehicles. As we all know, fuel-driven vehicles is a major source of carbon emissions. At present, there are about 550 000 private cars in Hong Kong, but only 11 000 electric vehicles. We have been promoting electric cars for a decade, yet their prevalence has remained now. In fact, quite a number of countries are planning to ban completely the sale of fuel-driven vehicles, but the pace in Hong Kong has apparently been very slow. While the Government provides exemption of first registration tax for electric vehicles and a “One-for-One Replacement” Scheme to encourage car owners to switch to electric vehicles, the effects have been ineffective. In my opinion, this is mainly attributable to the lack of charging facilities. Currently there are only some 2 000 charging facilities throughout the territory. Even if people do have the intent to switch to electric vehicles, they eventually have to give up because the purchase of such cars is easy but charging is difficult.

I would like to share with Members my experience. I am the chairman of the owners’ committee of a large housing estate, and I have been plagued by the issue concerning the installation of charging facilities for years. The study on feasible options alone took two years and the process was cumbersome, involving problems such as how to increase power supply, how to tackle the legal problems arisen, and who should pay for the expensive installation and maintenance costs. Fortunately, in recent years, the two power companies are willing to install charging facilities in housing estates. I learn that not all property management company is willing to install charging facilities; some small and medium property management companies refused to install charging facilities despite the request of owners. The reasons might be insufficient manpower and resources or fear of trouble. This has hindered the development of electric vehicles. Therefore, if the Government wishes to promote electric vehicles, it should make effort to tackle the problem of inadequate charging facilities.

Apart from government measures, personal habits also have a significant influence on the environment. In order to promote a low-carbon style of living, we must reduce energy consumption in daily life and reduce environmental pollution, such as using less electricity, using more energy efficient electrical appliances, recycling waste, taking public transport more often, using less paper and stop using plastic bags and disposable tableware. This year, the theme for the World Environment Day is Beat Plastic Pollution, entailing phasing out straws and plastic tableware. Through the Government’s publicity, many members of the public have stopped using straws and disposable tableware, and many fast-food restaurants have stopped providing them. This reflects that these environmental initiatives are well received by the public.

In fact, if we slightly change our habits, we can contribute to reducing emissions. For example, while the passage of the Waste Disposal (Charging for Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018 may cause inconvenience to the public, it is conducive to changing our waste disposal habits and reducing the generation of waste, thereby reducing waste and carbon emissions. Even if we have to pay the waste levy, we should still support the Bill.

Another point worth mentioning is that smart city development facilitates reduction in carbon emissions. Many major cities in the Mainland are moving towards intelligent processes to save vast amounts of paper. In restaurants, for example, customers now use their mobile phones to read the menu, place orders and pay the bill. Hence, printed menus, dim sum order forms, order forms and bills are no longer required. This is only one of the many examples. I hope the Government will give more attention to environmental protection when examining urban development in the future.

Today, some Members once again raised the issue of artificial islands. Their criticisms are actually unduly overplaying the matter. In fact, carbon emission is inevitable, be it near-shore reclamation, development of brownfield sites or in areas of clothing, food, housing and transport. We should focus on minimizing the impact. The Government has clearly stated that it would adopt the new idea of “conservation first, development later” in taking forward the Lantau Tomorrow project; environmental impact assessments would be conducted in a scientific and objective manner, and reclamation works would be carried out in the most environmentally responsible way. I must stress that since the artificial island will be self-sufficient, it can be developed into a community with almost zero carbon emission by increasing the greening ratio and adopting green transport modes, renewable sources of energy, energy-efficient designs as well as advanced recycling initiatives. Therefore, the artificial island will have a great edge in respect of environmental protection and emission reduction and will become an environmental-friendly community in Hong Kong. Such advantages cannot be found in other options.

Those who blindly oppose reclamation cannot fool the people of Hong Kong for long. While reclamation surely has risks and costs, it will bring more good than harm for members of the public. What we are discussing right now are material issues such as the provision of a roof over people’s heads. In fact, eating can lead to choking; does that mean we should not eat? I so submit.

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