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.

Policy address 2013

First reactions
January 16, 2013

A few weeks ago I shared my expectations for the Chief Executive’s delayed policy address, and the environment. Today, on the afternoon of the address, I had the opportunity to attend a briefing by KS Wong and Christine Loh on the nuts and bolts of the environmental components of the policy address. Here is my immediate reaction.
The environment features prominently – far more so than any address since 1997 at least – and finally is being mainstreamed into government thinking. At the very start of the address which sets out the future vision we have this gem: “If we are willing to go the extra mile, we can make Hong Kong a more liveable city with lush countryside, fresh air and a clean environment.” Hallelujah! 
The BIG one – $10 billion in subsidies to get 80,000 Euro III and worse diesel commercial vehicles off the road, which would reduce air pollution particulates by 80%. Now that’s what I call a major investment for a better Hong Kong!
There has been some good momentum recently to address vessel emissions, and now government will seek Legco approval for new legislation to require ocean-going ships to use low-sulphur fuel when at berth, and will step up their efforts to have the same happen at other ports in the Pearl River Delta. Very good.
In the coming three months, a “waste management blueprint” will be produced, with measures to introduce charging, reduce food waste and support the recycling industry through dedicated port facilities (most waste for recycling is exported). Waste-to-energy is still on the table though, which may mean that the infamous incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau still goes ahead.
The transition to a low-carbon economy featured lightly, but a new inter-departmental committee to promote green buildings will be established, led by Secretary for the Environment KS Wong – who is a green building expert.
Banning commercial fishing in all marine parks was not mentioned in the policy address per se, but it was confirmed by the Environment Bureau that they will approach Legco for the support needed to make the legislative changes in 2013. About time!
And, finally, two unexpected surprises. Firstly, the Environment Conservation Fund (ECF) will be boosted by $5 billion to foster environmental protection activities in the community. This is massively important in the current economic environment where funds from companies and individuals are that much harder to come by. I did ask during the briefing that ECF conduct a review of its effectiveness, though, and try to streamline the procedure, as ECF is infamous for the hassles that accompany any application.
Secondly, a completely new $500 million fund for the development of sustainable fisheries, to cover “relevant programmes and research”. WWF was the first to start promoting such a fund – which we called The Sustainable Ocean Fund – several years ago, in the recognition that AFCD could not possibly hope to transition the fishing industry to sustainability single-handedly, so it is massively gratifying to see the idea taken up.  
Increasing land supply is a major focus, and while avoiding country parks and areas of high conservation value is explicitly mentioned, 13 sites in Green Belt areas will potentially be rezoned to allow residential housing, and Tung Chung on Lantau is targeted for expansion – which will likely affect the valuable wetland and coastal areas there.
Reclamation is pushed hard, to create a whopping 2-3,000 hectares of land. By comparison, the current airport platform is 1,250 hectares. Four sites are mentioned including North Lantau, a major concern given the already declining Chinese white dolphin population there.
No new measures to address climate change, or conserve wildlife on land, particularly on private land. This may be a reflection of the number of issues that the Environment Bureau can handle simultaneously, but Hong Kong has dragged its heels on concrete measures to limit the amount of greenhouse gases we produce for the past five years. Furthermore, there was no new news on how the government plans to tackle the more controversial country park enclaves.
Overall, this is a B+ for me.



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