Andy Cornish's Blog

Dr Andy Cornish was raised in Hong Kong, and gained a strong interest in wildlife through spending time in Pokfulam Country Park. He studied Zoology at Nottingham University in England, travelled extensively through Central America where he learnt to scuba dive, and later did his PhD on reef fishes at the University of Hong Kong. Since then, he worked for a year doing coral reef management for the government of American Samoa, and taught in the Dept. of Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Hong Kong. He worked at WWF from 2005 to late 2012 as Conservation Director, and was responsible for four programmes: Climate, Footprint, Local Biodiversity and Regional Wetlands (including management of the Mai Po Nature Reserve). He remains involved in environmental issues on an independent basis.

Are legislators barking mad?

First impressions
January 28, 2013

Legislators have scuppered decent environmental initiatives before. By many reckonings, the new Legislative Council is so full of anti-government types that getting the green light for new policies is going to be a nightmare. So this afternoon I went to Legco to observe the new Panel of Environmental Affairs (EA Panel) in action, as the Environment Bureau set out their environmental initiatives for the coming year. 
Attending Legco sessions is easy and free, but rarely value for money entertainment. The $10 entry fee for the horse races is infinitely better on that score. But horses won't save the world so I soldiered through two and half hours at Legco to share the following with you.
The new legislators on the EA Panel are keen, and there are a lot of them. At past meetings you could be lucky if five members turned up, but today there were 18. All of whom spoke. Cyd Ho is the new Chairman and finding her feet in the role, but is a passionate advocate for the environment, so another plus mark there.
Question time was far less argumentative than in the past, probably as the new administration is actually doing something so there is less to complain about. I made a crude tally of questions and comments by legislators to provide a rough idea of the burning topics of the day.
Air quality (phasing out of old commercal diesel vehicles) - 5 (questions/opinions)
Waste (reduction at source) - 4
Waste (food) - 4
Light pollution - 3
Waste (landfills, especially at Tseung Kwan O) - 3
Air quality (Kai Tak cruise terminal) - 3
Fly-tipping - 3
Waste incinerator - 2
Electric vehicles, carbon audits, reclamation, marine biodiversity, small electrical appliances, recycling - 1 each
Stephen Ho (the new fisheries legislator) asked why government was restricting commercial fishing to restore the marine ecosystem on the one hand, and charging ahead with reclamations on the other. Albert Chan challenged KS Wong to have the courage to introduce new legislation to sort waste at source (e.g. require each household to separate its own waste before it is collected), to which KS countered that the other half of the battle was to reduce the total amount of waste each person produces in the first place (more than 30% more than in Taipei, Seoul etc).
Overall, the debate was pretty superficial. The new legislators are keen, but will need to gain a far deeper understanding of the issues if they are going to make a meaningful contribution to steering policy in the right direction. And the fact that not one of them mentioned the Convention for Biological Diversity and nature conservation should certainly be a cause for concern for the many environmental groups who care about conserving wildlife, and individuals like me.



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