Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am


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The two-year delay that is bad for our health

Environment secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah has finally been forced to explain why the government is pretending that it needs new legislation in order to introduce new air quality objectives (AQOs). The Air Pollution Control Ordinance clearly states that AQOs can be amended by the environment secretary in consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment, that is, without referring to Legco.

In a written answer presented to Legco, Yau essentially said that the reason we have to endure lower air quality for the next two years is so that the new AQOs don't jeopardise the feasibility of projects that have already been granted environmental permits under the current AQOs or are currently being built. The two-year delay is to allow the government to produce the legislation to enable it to grant infrastructure projects a 36-month grace period. That is, they are being given a grace to period to enable them to go on polluting for longer.

For good measure, Yau said that to underscore the 'government's determination, and to take a leading role', it would 'endeavour' to adopt the new AQOs, though unfortunately he doesn't say the government 'will' meet the new standards. Asked whether the government had considered the health impacts of delaying the introduction of new AQOs until 2014, Yau ignored the question.

The reason for this is that the Environmental Protection Department has no resources to assess the impact on health. This aspect of its work was taken away from the department shortly after 1997. There is no body in Hong Kong charged with considering the effect of air pollution on public health. Something perhaps the incoming chief executive might care to reflect on.

The other Henry surfaces

There has been some amusement in property circles over an invitation that has been circulated by Savills, the property agency. The invitation is headed 'The Henry Launch Party'.

This is not, as you might be forgiven for thinking, an invitation to some sort of 'elect Henry Tang' event. It's an invitation to celebrate the launch of a new serviced apartment development in Des Voeux Road, which just happens to have been named The Henry. The development was named some time ago and we are assured by Savills it has nothing to do with Henry Tang. But the invitation has caught the flavour of the Tang lifestyle: 'living it up with The Henry/where the good life begins/the ultimate lifestyle.'

Gulliver's gripes

HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver has been talking to The Sunday Telegraph and bemoaning the effect of the UK banking levy. So concerned was he that he took the matter up with the UK Treasury. Gulliver was critical of the way the levy is charged and for the so-called Plac issue. This is the primary loss absorbing capacity and refers to the Treasury's suggestion that banks should have enough capital to absorb losses amounting to 20 per cent of their balance sheet. Gulliver says the levy will cost HSBC US$700 million in 2012 and the Plac issue approximately US$2.1 billion a year. 'So there's about a $2.8 billion cost to those two. Assume a PE [price-earnings ratio] of 10, to keep the maths easy, assume $28 billion permanently off the market cap of the firm,' he told the paper. That is the price, we suppose, of playing fast and loose in the markets with funny money and bringing on the global financial crisis in which HSBC played a part.

Green building, green litter

Nice to see the Goodman Interlink logistics complex in Tsing Yi being certified on both sides of the Pacific Ocean for its high environmental standards. In Hong Kong, the HK$5 billion complex was given Gold Standard pre-certification by the BEAM Society, a group which helps measure and label the environmental performance of buildings.

The building has also been certified under the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design programme, which verifies the facility was 'designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance' in several key areas. This includes human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Shame, then, that the culmination of yesterday's grand opening saw an explosion of silver and green metallic confetti and streamers which was carried by the wind to end up adorning the nearby highway, footpaths, trees, cables and chemical factory.

A question for the litter police - would that incur a HK$1,500 fine for every piece of non-biodegradable piece of confetti and streamer, or the initial bang that released the confetti?