Climate Change


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am

Airlines must bear the cost of pollution

Aviation's contribution to climate change is forecast to grow substantially in the future unless we act. As most other sectors are already subject to measures, it is only reasonable that this sector should also contribute to fight climate change.

Almost 20 years after countries across the world in the UN Rio declaration agreed on the need to 'promote the internalisation of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution', it seems high time that this polluter-pays principle is finally also applied to aviation's greenhouse gas emissions. How can we ever hope to make ordinary citizens of the world play their part in tackling climate change if the financier from Hong Kong or London or the businessman from Guangdong or Frankfurt is not asked for any contribution in respect of the significant emissions that he incurs on an intercontinental flight?

The UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation already in 2004 unanimously endorsed the idea of emissions trading because it was the most effective economic instrument for tackling aviation emissions, when compared to alternatives such as taxes or charges.

This is precisely what the EU decided to do when it subsequently took the initiative to include aviation in the EU's emissions trading system.

Emissions from aircraft affect the climate regardless of their nationality. Aviation is a competitive business, where on any given route, all carriers must be treated equally regardless of their nationality to ensure legality, avoid distortions of competition and maximise the environmental impact.

Consequently, the EU legislation applies to all outgoing and incoming flights.

A lot of misinformation about the EU rules and the costs for carriers circulates. The vast majority of emissions rights (85 per cent) are given for free to airlines, while the remaining 15 per cent of the cap is auctioned.

Auction revenues will be used to tackle climate change in the EU and third countries, inter alia, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to adapt to the impact of climate change in the EU and third countries, especially developing countries; to fund research and development for mitigation and adaptation, including in particular in the fields of aeronautics and air transport; to reduce emissions through low-emission transport and measures to avoid deforestation.

The EU recognises that ultimately global action is required, but this will take time to develop.

In order not to duplicate efforts, the EU's legislation clearly envisages that if a country outside the EU were to take equivalent measures, then all flights from that country could be exempt from the EU scheme. But, honestly, in Europe we cannot see why a student flying back home should pay for his pollution while the Hong Kong businessman should not.

We are ready to engage constructively with other partners about such an approach and encourage other governments to join in and take responsibility for controlling aviation's emissions.

Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action

New, green lease of life for old cars

I refer to Regina Chan Ka-yan's letter ('Do more to get old cars off the road', May 31).

Nearly all cars can be converted to full electric-driven vehicles.

This conversion can be done by simply throwing out the engine and sometimes the gearbox and then installing an electric motor.

There may be some loss in performance due to battery space and present technology, or handling, due to additional or redistributed weight. However, the environmental benefits of converting any old cars are enormous.

Also, the social benefits are great, as this conversion work will create local employment opportunities, instead of jobs in distant car factories.

There will be continuing technological improvements in this field, which will mean more electronic storage.

Electric vehicles converted now will be able to make use of these advances.

Better batteries in the future will mean that the range of these vehicles will increase.

Nigel Lam, Kowloon Tong

Gaddafi's tactics not surprising

I am not in support of Nato's intervention in Libya, but find it not world-shattering news to hear that Muammar Gaddafi is using Tripoli's hospitals ('Paranoid Gaddafi hiding in hospitals every night', May 28).

Hiding in this way, and endangering the general population when in trouble, is a tactic frequently used by despotic leaders who fear for their safety.

In particular, in the Middle East, the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, after initiating conflicts with Israel, sent others to face the Israeli gunfire and established their command posts under hospitals, and in schools and mosques.

Marian Schneps, Wan Chai

Filthy water will put off investors

Water is vital for humans, animals and plants; we cannot live without it. So people face serious problems when their main water source is polluted.

On the mainland these pollution problems have reached crisis proportions. I often read reports about contaminated supplies.

This is often caused by emissions from industrial plants. Effluent from the manufacturing process is discharged into rivers and lakes. This filthy water will be used by farmers living nearby which raises serious questions about food safety.

People often have no choice but to drink this filthy water, give it to their livestock and bathe in it. This has a cumulative effect.

Manufacturers on the mainland are continuing to ignore this crisis. Many of them are refusing to admit and face up to their responsibilities.

If action is not taken to rectify this problem, then more foreign investors will be reluctant to locate their factories on the mainland.

Janice Lo Yee-yung, Hung Hom

Handout via MPF is not fair option

In his Lai See column, Howard Winn opines that it would be feasible to pay out the promised HK$6,000 handout by putting it into Mandatory Provident Fund accounts ('Budget payout delay could see the natives getting restless again', May 27).

This was the original proposal in the budget. It meant younger people who are employed would receive the money, but the elderly, disabled and unemployed, who needed the funds, would go without.

Surely one of our well-paid civil servants could come up with a quick and efficient way to carry out the distribution. Claimants should be required to register somewhere, maybe a local Social Welfare Department office or a bank. Hopefully this would save the government a lot of money as the Li Ka-shings and Lee Shau-kees of this world would not have the time to attend.

John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei

More drop-in centres are needed in HK

The government should open more drop-in centres for young people who are aimlessly drifting at night.

Such centres can provide these youngsters with the basic necessities.

If they have severed links with family members and have run away from home, they lack proper care and guidance. They can be given food, medical care if need be and somewhere to rest.

They can also get help from qualified social workers. In these centres, they are protected from undesirable individuals who prey on young people and can tempt them to take drugs and commit crimes.

Angelina Wong, Mid-Levels

Misguided plans for new care fund

I refer to the letter by Carmen Cheung ('Fund will not help to tackle poverty', May 23).

The government will use some of the HK$10 billion Community Care Fund to help children from low-income families join study tours. Young people can make remarkable progress without going abroad on such trips.

It would be better if more of this fund could be used to help those in need cope with the effects of inflation.

Officials need to come up with measures that genuinely help families in need.

Samantha Li Cheuk-wing, Kwun Tong