Letters to the Editor, April 12, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 3:47am

No, we're not approaching apocalypse now

Was it not so predictable? One severe thunderstorm generating a few exceptional hailstones and there you have it, absolute proof of impending catastrophic global warming demanding immediate action.

Thank you, Hong Kong Observatory and Oxfam Hong Kong, for taking full advantage of this event to remind us all of our impending doom ("No escape", April 5), not to mention a compliant media. Hong Kong must move quickly towards "decarbonisation". You could not make it up.

I am informed that - although you wouldn't know it from merely reading the "summary for policymakers", which emphasises a worst-case scenario - the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) weighs heavily in the direction of adapting to climate change and steers away from the previous emphasis on extremely expensive and virtually impossible mitigation measures to avoid catastrophic global warming. It is not all doom and gloom, and even mentions some of the potential benefits of a warmer climate.

The BBC recently interviewed a senior figure from the Institute of Mechanic Engineers, when discussing the IPCC report, and he was asked what the chances were that the world could move away from dependency on fossil fuels any time soon.

He basically scoffed at the idea, saying that 85 per cent of the global economy is totally dependent on relatively cheap, efficient and abundant fossil fuels and only in the developed world (the United States and European Union, and Hong Kong of course) could governments even attempt to forcibly impose a reduction in their use by way of punitive measures and heavily subsidising - with our taxes - so-called green energy, but with effectively no impact whatsoever on a global scale.

There are many serious and factually accurate commentaries out there on the latest IPCC report that offer encouraging alternative opinions.

The worst-case scenarios apply if, over the next few decades, the ingenuity of man to adapt, even without government "encouragement", is totally discounted or suppressed.

The worst-case scenarios in this report are nowhere near as apocalyptic as the previous report seven years ago; the Stern Report of 2006, upon which the then-Labour government in Britain based its Climate Act, stated that global warming would impact on the global economy to the tune of 5per cent to 20 per cent, whereas we are informed in the latest IPCC report that the impact will be between 0.2 per cent and 2per cent, with 2 per cent being the very worst-case scenario.

Our friends at the Observatory and Oxfam Hong Kong will have us believe that this is all crazy denier nonsense.

G. Bailey, Ta Kwu Ling


Is everyone charged to live on their land?

I wish to add my support to the viewpoint of Sherry Lee in her letter ("Same financial scenario hits middle class", April 9).

She says that owners of properties have had to pay much more - 65 per cent during the past two years - for government rates and rent.

She also asserts that people owning only one property - the one they live in - should be assessed in a fairer way than at present.

I also want to ask the question, why do we pay rent to the government? Do all governments charge their citizens for living on their own land, or is it peculiar to Hong Kong?

Why, when we own our properties, especially those on a private estate, do we then need to pay "rent"? Is it just a convenient way for the government to get back, from their middle-class citizens, considerably more than the rates concession granted in a budget?

It seems to me that the bulk of what we pay, not only in rent, but also in rates, provides an easy way for the government to get richer without offering much in return.

The government should be accountable to the people. I would appreciate some answers from an appropriate representative.

Chris Stubbs, Discovery Bay


HK can cope with visitor influx to 2017

I refer to an item in Michael Chugani's column ("Greg So needs a hard kick back into the real world" (April 9), which contains a few factual errors.

The "Assessment Report on Hong Kong's Capacity to Receive Tourists" projected that the visitor arrivals in 2017 would exceed 70 million, which was the medium-term forecast; the projected visitor arrivals at 100million in 2023 was the best estimation under rather conservative assumptions.

The recommendations in the report worked towards accommodating the projected visitor arrivals in 2017 only.

In fact, the assessment suggested Hong Kong would generally be able to receive the visitor arrivals in 2017 and hotel rooms would remain in tight supply; it never suggested that Hong Kong would be "perfectly capable of handling 100 million visitors annually".

On the time sequence of events, findings of the report were announced by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung in January. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying talked about the government's study of possible measures on how best to control the visitor growth on April 4.

It is factually incorrect to say Mr So "repeat[s] the same old babble that the city is perfectly capable of handling 100 million visitors annually" after Mr Leung made the remarks.

Grace Ng, press secretary to the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development


Holistic review of plastic bag policy needed

Some time ago, there was great controversy when the government introduced a charging scheme for plastic bags at supermarkets - to help reduce the numbers that are used.

Now the government is proposing to provide residents with "designated bags" for disposal of domestic refuse. ("Residents split over charging method", April 8).

Issuing more bags is inconsistent with the policy of reducing bags. Rubbish in wheelie bins really does not need to be bagged.

Please could we have a holistic review of government policy and intentions?

Graham Price, North Point


Time to show we won't tolerate abuse

It makes sense for the Mission for Migrant Workers to look after Erwiana Sulistyaningsih because of its wide experience over the years in looking after the welfare of foreign domestics ("Erwiana 'pressured to use consulate's lawyer'," April 10).

The mission was set up decades ago to offer assistance to, and protection for, Filipino helpers; over the years, it has welcomed other nationalities when they also began arriving to serve Hong Kong households.

The charge that the Indonesian consulate is engaged in "damage control" over the Erwiana case may be true, especially since Hong Kong has been turning not only to Indonesia, but to countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, where, unfortunately, too many women might not be as aware of their rights as those workers from the Philippines.

The other consulates have seemed more interested in promoting more of these human exports, while not paying close attention to ensuring that the women are treated fairly once they arrive to work.

It's important now for Hong Kong to show the world that this city will no longer tolerate the abuse of the human rights of those on the lowest levels of its society.

Isabel Escoda, Mui Wo

Three reasons to reject desalination

I was shocked to hear the idea of a new desalination plant. It is totally wrong, for three reasons.

First, the economic consideration: the cost of desalination is higher than that of river water, and there is no point buying something more expensive if you have a cheaper option.

Second is the political consideration: we are now one country. I can understand Singapore being worried about unfriendly neighbours, but we are in a different situation. We have a very supportive central government, and I expect that to last. At any rate, the 5 per cent production is of no help to our overall water supply situation.

Third is the world-resources consideration: our electricity is still very much reliant on fossil fuels, which are non-renewable energy sources. Despite the relative efficiency of reverse osmosis technology, we still need to use energy to drive the process. For the sake of Mother Earth, please do not use non-renewable energy on meaningless gadgets when we can get the same direct from river water.

Fears over future water consumption should not be over-estimated. We have a stable population and a declining industry. Water consumption is not going to shoot up. If we can increase water rates sensibly, we can cut water consumption.

I suggest using the land earmarked for the desalination plant for housing development, to kill two birds with one stone.

Dennis Li, Mid-Levels