• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:44pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Third runway at Chek Lap Kok is key to Hong Kong's sustainable growth

Joe Ng says any airport expansion must respect the environment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 2:07am

The current discussion around the proposed three-runway system at Hong Kong International Airport is focused on the potential impacts on the environment.

The environmental lobby and those living near the airport have raised valid concerns about the potential impact on local ecology, noise disturbance and air quality. But there is also the validity of the overall need for a third runway to consider.

Not only is Hong Kong International Airport a major transport hub, it is also vital to the city's continued prosperity as an economic powerhouse. This brings benefits to everyone in Hong Kong, not just airline passengers or cargo shippers.

It also generates vital benefits through connections between cities and markets that enable foreign direct investment, business development and other spillover benefits that help Hong Kong thrive. Currently, aviation is worth HK$88.9 billion to Hong Kong, representing 5.5 per cent of gross domestic product.

But what is the cost to the environment of these vital benefits? Undoubtedly, aviation, like every other industry, has an environmental impact and currently accounts for 2 per cent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. But it is also an industry that is fully committed to reducing this impact. Airlines are investing heavily in the very latest technology. The Airbus A380, already serving Hong Kong, is one of the world's quietest large aircraft.

New aircraft designs, including the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 XWB, utilise advanced materials such as carbon fibre, making them lighter, reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 28 per cent compared to their predecessors. Overall, aircraft are now 70 per cent more fuel efficient than the early jets, with lower emissions. New aircraft are also progressively quieter than those in service even a decade ago. Through technological advances, the industry has managed to reduce overall noise by 75 per cent since the early 1960s. In October, aviation became the first global sector to have its post-2020 carbon dioxide emissions regulated by the UN - something the industry had been calling for since 2008 - and had pledged to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020.

Airlines have been preparing for this fundamental change. Far from being the pariah that some have suggested, sustainability has become central to the industry's future and is playing its part in addressing global climate change.

For Hong Kong, there is much to consider. The airport's environmental impact assessment will soon be published and the public debate will rightly focus on the importance of preserving our environment. The Airport Authority must take the necessary steps to ensure any expansion minimises overall environmental impact and must follow the recommendations of the report.

But we must also seize the opportunity to provide a sustainable future for Hong Kong and recognise the vital importance that aviation plays in our economy and society. Without a thriving aviation hub, our city will suffer. Without trade and investment, we will be unable to support initiatives that promote biodiversity, conservation and the environment, as Hong Kong loses out to growing competition from emerging markets.

Rather than growth at any price, as some environmentalists believe to be the case regarding the third runway, we need responsible and sustainable growth that respects the environment and mitigates any potential adverse impacts. Expanding Hong Kong International Airport now will help provide the necessary foundations to guarantee our future success and strengthen our position in the world economy - and that will ultimately benefit us all.

Joe Ng is vice-chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, Hong Kong


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This article is now closed to comments

I presumed this article was satire when the headline contained the term "sustainable" when describing the proposed third runway. The third runway is anything but sustainable.
A better approach than building a third runway would be to coordinate capacity with other existing airports in the PRD.
This article by a representative of the aviation industry in Hong Kong comes right after the news reporting of the opening of a new airport in Shenzhen. While not beating in the bush, the article is aiming to get the public to have the third runway built. The justifications for expanding the capacity ride on the future prospect but it hasn’t offered what is the prospective need capacity. It is fishing without knowing how many fish in the water. Without quantifying in local context of the expanded capacity in Shenzhen’s new airport is a puzzling omission. Perhaps it is just competition for competition sake.
So let us stay on the old numbers what contributed to GDP by the aviation industry. How do we look at 5.5% GDP? Who benefits from that 5.5% other than the aviation industry itself? More importantly, would Hong Kong be ill-served if future local flying is partially diverted to Shenzhen?I don’t think so when the population is not expanding.
Not only some figures must be studied but not penned by the local aviation industry alone. An independent economist that has a regional overview must take the lead to tell all of us if a third runway is imminently needed for Hong Kong to survive.
For the time being let us ask Cathay Pacific, the prime user and proponent for a third runway to finance the third runway. It is a good litmus test at least to see if the extra runway is worth the money and effort.
What a load of self interested kak!
"it is also vital to the city's continued prosperity as an economic powerhouse. This brings benefits to everyone in Hong Kong"
And just what benefits to the man in the street does the increased pollution & more Mainlanders offer ? Economic powerhouse = make the bankers, landlords, hotels, developers & tycoons richer whilst shutting down the corner shops people rely on & replacing them with Mainlander oriented sales whilst black money finds a convenient hiding hole in jewellery & inflated property.
Ignoring the pink dolphins (sushi?) ARUP consultancy already stated that increased flight movements will exceed the new NOx AQO's (which should be Standards).
The reason they want a 3rd runway is so they can shut one down for surface repairs whilst operating the two others to the benefit of the airline executive bonuses.
Mainlanders et al arriving here should have access to the hi speed rail tunnel to Shenzhen which has far more destinations in the Mainland than CLK can provide.
Air corridor A1 is already at saturation so how would you increase flights ? Soundproofing Tung Chung apartments & operating longer than the current 18 hours per day is far more cost effective than building a 3rd runway to benefit the rich, not the HKG man in the street who suffers from the pheromone influx. Meanwhile Guangzhou will add new runways, Shenzhen a 3rd, Beijing a new southern airport with 9 runways etc whilst PRD has no central command control ops
I certainly do hope it is satire. We can always call him out for what he is: "delusional".
It's such a shame that businesses like using eco-terms to greenwash without even knowing what the term means.
rpasea recommends "coordinate capacity with other existing airports"
Yes - especially when Shenzhen newspapers are reporting, that Guangzhou is planning a
second airport, perhaps in Nansha, ( opposite Shenzhen ) or further west, closer to Jiangmen.
Speak of the devil & he appeared : NOx
Hong Kong Central Roadside Pollution Surges to Toxic Levels
By Natasha Khan December 04, 2013
Nitrogen dioxide readings jumped in Hong Kong at two roadside pollution monitoring stations, reaching concentrations at which it becomes a toxic gas.
The reading in the downtown district of Central was 231.8 micrograms per cubic meter at 3 p.m. local time, data from the Environmental Protection Department show. The gas can cause significant inflammation of the airways once concentration levels exceed 200 micrograms, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization.
Hong Kong is seeking to replace old diesel vehicles as aging buses and trucks have led to a worsening in air quality since 2007. Sunny, drier weather with milder wind has contributed to the build-up of pollution in the past few days, said Simon Ng, head of transport and sustainability research at independent think-tank Civic Exchange. (gee, which was founded by Christine LOH before HK Govt headhunted her)
Harold Cameron
Coordinating capacity only works until all airports involved are working at 100%. Then there would be a mad scramble to see which airport could add extra capacity the quickest. I'd suggest that CLK adds an extra runway in order to give it an advantage over its competitors & thereby have extra infrastructure in place before it is required.


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