Hong Kong policy: Carrie Lam takes one step forward on plastics, but two steps back with Lantau reclamation plan
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s much-anticipated second policy address was delivered last Wednesday. Although it is long overdue, we are glad to see the government waking up to the global trend away from plastic pollution. Beyond piecemeal actions within the government, a timetable should be set for the elimination of disposable plastic items citywide. We would also like to see a greater expansion in public education and outreach, ahead of the launch of the municipal solid waste charging scheme that will promote waste reduction and recycling.
With regard to climate change, it is good that the government plans to update its long-term decarbonisation strategy. We urge the government to set a renewal energy target of 10 per cent by 2030. Along with the decarbonisation strategy, there should be a stronger push to develop green finance; a first step would be to pull public funds out of fossil fuels.
Further, in light of the response to Typhoon Mangkhut, we ask the government to establish a climate emergency office to better coordinate Hong Kong’s defences against future climate threats.
Watch: Highlights of 2018 policy address
There was a great deal of anticipation for Ms Lam’s plans for boosting land supply. To anyone who follows the news, it shouldn’t be surprising that land reclamation has once again been touted as the preferred solution – even though the chief executive had been warned against pre-empting the report of the Task Force on Land Supply’s public consultation.
In pressing on with the East Lantau reclamation project, now dubbed the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, Ms Lam is waving aside the environmental damage it will cause. Unfortunately, land reclamation not only destroys natural habitats and threatens biodiversity, its impact also extends to areas where sand is hauled away – often illegally, from countries with weak environmental regulations.
The recent typhoons have also clearly shown the need to plan for rising sea levels and storm surges, which might make the project prohibitively expensive. While mega projects look attractive on paper, they often go over budget and fail to meet societal needs.
The government should instead consider more realistic solutions, such as developing brownfields and revitalising ageing districts, to meet projected housing demands.
A liveable city needs a healthy, sustainable environment. Environmental sustainability should not be just a responsibility of the Environment Bureau, but a core focus of government initiatives. We hope to see more mainstreaming and integration of environmental considerations into future policies.
Wendell Chan, programmer officer, Friends of the Earth (HK)