The Policy Address 2000

Improving the Environment

7. In recent years, another major change in public awareness has been our greater emphasis on the quality of our environment and the concept of sustainable development. Last year we declared our commitment to introduce new initiatives to prevent and reduce environmental pollution. Air quality was the main priority and good progress has been achieved over the past year.

8. We have provided financial assistance for diesel taxi owners to switch to LPG taxis, and have subsidised the installation of particulate traps on older light diesel vehicles. A pilot scheme on the use of clean LPG and electricity by public light buses has been launched. After completion of the scheme early next year, we will decide on measures for its long-term implementation. With effect from 1 January 2001, all newly registered light vehicles will be required to meet more stringent emission standards. At the end of July, Hong Kong became the first city in Asia to adopt ultra low sulphur diesel. We have introduced a concessionary duty to encourage owners of all diesel vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, to switch to this cleaner fuel. Also, I am pleased to note that all franchised bus operators will switch completely to ultra low sulphur diesel next year.

9. With the implementation of these and other measures, air pollution by vehicle emissions will be significantly alleviated in the coming years. From the progress so far, it is clear that we are well on track to meet the targets announced in last year's Policy Address, that is, to reduce particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles by 80% and 30% respectively by 2005.

10. However, if the number of vehicles continues to increase, the benefits that our mitigating measures bring will be eroded. So, we have to ensure that our transport strategies and land planning are consistent with the principle of sustainable development. We will again examine the use of an electronic road pricing scheme, not to generate additional revenue, but to encourage effective use of vehicles so as to reduce emissions and traffic congestion as far as possible. Before making any decision, we will carefully consider the issues, especially concerns about personal privacy.

11. For the disposal of waste, the current recovery rate of commercial and industrial wastes in Hong Kong is 50%. For domestic waste the rate is only 10%, so there is certainly much more we can all do to improve this situation, including stepping up education to increase public awareness. We are formulating policies to promote waste recycling which should encourage the development of waste recycling industries. This, in turn, will create new job opportunities. We will conduct a careful and comprehensive assessment of the cost-effectiveness, land requirements and environmental impacts of waste recycling and the disposal of non-recyclable waste by incineration or landfilling. We will then finalise our overall strategy.

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