PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2011, 12:00am


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Emissions accelerating, not declining

The UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, has thrown down the gauntlet, calling for temperature rises due to carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans to be restricted to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, to minimise the damage from and cost of climate change.

To prevent a two-degree rise, CO2 levels must be held at or below 400 parts per million.

Last month, the US government's Earth System Research Laboratory announced that atmospheric CO2 concentrations were now just shy of 395ppm, reflecting the highest ever recorded increase of 1.6ppm over last year. In other words, our CO2 emissions are accelerating, not declining.

Aircraft and flights are a major source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Significant improvements in aircraft engine fuel efficiency by up to 70 per cent and reduced emission levels are nonetheless offset by the escalating number of flights and aircraft.

At the current rate of growth, under a business as usual oil-based scenario, CO2 levels are projected to be seven times higher by 2050. That will mean major climate change and living conditions vastly different from today.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority wants to build another runway to increase air traffic even further. Supporters say it will be good for economic growth, but the figures presented above indicate we are heading towards a cliff at full speed with our eyes wide shut.

It's about time the 'economic growth at any cost' dinosaurs were challenged to come up with an alternative business model that does not doom us all.

Richard Fielding, Pok Fu Lam

Runway will help keep HK competitive

Some critics of a proposed third runway have questioned the need for one.

However, there will be steady growth of passengers and cargo. The runways and departure halls are already busy and will reach saturation point.

In order for Hong Kong to remain competitive and continue to be a regional hub in the future, it is essential to have a third runway.

We need large infrastructure projects such as the runway, the cruise terminal at Kai Tak and the express rail link.

We need effective links to the rest of the world, not just the mainland. The financial benefits of the runway will exceed the cost of building it.

Some academics doubt the government's projections, saying it overestimated usage on the Light Rail and West Rail lines.

However, there were also sceptics about the need for a new airport in 1989, and when it started operating people doubted it would reach capacity.

Critics also point to the amount of land that needs to be reclaimed. However, numerous airports, because of their location, have had no choice but to undertake large reclamation projects.

Reclamation is a fact of life in Hong Kong, and we have to opt for it so that the city can expand and we can put up more buildings where needed.

Sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order for Hong Kong to remain competitive. Do people want the SAR to be a major economic force or an idyllic habitat for Chinese white dolphins?

What we should try to do is strike a balance between commercial development and environmental protection.

For example, if the government spends HK$136 billion to build the third runway, it should use some of the money to implement environmental protection measures.

It makes more sense to take the initiative and build the runway than just do nothing.

Keung Chan, Tai Po

Ban incense in some public places

There have been press reports about conflicts between neighbours over the burning of incense in domestic areas.

This is an annoying practice that should be stopped. It is not about freedom of religion but about public hygiene and safety and health.

The burning of incense is a public nuisance. It causes hill fires and can sometimes lead to fires in people's homes. People who burn it are being selfish.

If people are banned from smoking a cigarette in some public places, then this ban should be extended to incense.

C. T. Chu, Pok Fu Lam

Parents, set example by not gambling

There was a heated debate about the Mark Six when the jackpot exceeded HK$130 million last month.

Concerns were expressed about parents who took their children with them when they went to purchase a ticket at a Jockey Club betting centre.

Children are curious about everything, and they would have seen people gambling while they waited outside. This could have a bad influence on them.

A survey found that many teenagers are already involved in gambling. If their parents have a gambling problem, there is a risk that children may also become addicted.

Parents should be trying to act as role models and stay away from betting.

Kellie Yip Ting-kwan, Lok Fu

Job-seekers must beware of scams

A lot of students will be trying to get summer jobs during the school break to earn money and gain work experience.

Sometimes they are deceived by people who tell them they need to pay fees to attend workshops. They may borrow money and sign a contract without reading it. When they realise their mistake, it is often too late, and they will have lost their money.

The government needs to tighten the law on such scams. There should be a cooling-off period for contracts, as is the case in Singapore.

Parents should also teach their children to be more vigilant and be wary of rip-offs.

Schools should also raise pupils' awareness before they go out looking for a summer job.

Tammy Wong Wai-ting, To Kwa Wan

Eateries still charge high wine prices

For many years, those in the catering industry complained about the extortionate level of government taxation on wine here in Hong Kong.

They claimed it forced them to charge high prices for wine in their bars and restaurants, which, in turn, upset customers and resulted in less business for their establishments. As a wine lover, I could not have agreed more. On many occasions I would cut my dining experience short because I simply could not afford to continue drinking wine at restaurant prices.

Well, the government listened to catering industry voices and removed the tax on wine.

Prices per bottle became more affordable in supermarkets, but lo and behold, there is little evidence that Hong Kong restaurants have reduced their prices per bottle. It is still possible to find a bottle of wine that would cost no more than HK$50 in a supermarket selling for HK$288 or more in a bar/restaurant.

How do members of the catering industry justify continuing with such rapacious mark-ups? Perhaps it can all be blamed on equally rapacious landlords, but then the latter were rapacious before the wine tax was removed.

Mark Ranson, Sai Kung

Water firms don't walk the green talk

As part of the ongoing debate about pollution and recycling, I would like to point out the apparent contradiction between the philosophy and practice of two of our leading companies.

One of our most popular bottled water companies advertises its product with young children playing in the forest extolling the purity of its product.

At the same time, if you buy one of its 4.8 litre hot/cold dispensers, you will be advised that the bottles are non-returnable. Presumably, you should chuck them into the first available bacteria-laden stream on your next hike in a country park.

Its biggest competitor is no better. When asked to take away used bottles, its staff get angry and shout that they are only going to dump them at the foot of the stairs. When asked about repairs to a 4.8 litre hot/cold dispenser, they told me to return it to the company's Sha Tin factory.

The firm owns numerous facilities in this city, and this is the best it can do? 'Buy another one, then' was the response. Of course, it is only guaranteed for four weeks; after that, you still have to return it to Sha Tin for repairs or throw it away.

Surely, if these firms promote the virtue of a product, they should have the dignity to live up to the standards they extol?

John Dainton, Wong Chuk Hang