Even though restoring social order is Hong Kong's first priority, the embattled government still needs to get on with other business. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has rightly showed the commitment expected of a capable and visionary minister. From developing cross-border renewable power supply to phasing out fossil fuel vehicles, there is a lot on his plate.
Commendable as it is, the Environment Bureau is not known for having a good track record when it comes to delivering. Take the garbage levy.
Raised as early as in 2003 to help reduce municipal waste, the bill giving effect to the charge is still languishing in the legislature. The target implementation year has been repeatedly put back and it remains unclear when the law will be passed.
The ideas raised by Wong in an interview with the South China Morning Post are worthy of further exploration. Stressing the need for more innovative thinking to cut carbon emission in the next few decades, Wong suggested working with our neighbouring cities to develop wind and solar energy under the framework of the Greater Bay Area, a national drive to turn 11 cities in southern China into an economic powerhouse.
No less ambitious is the vision of phasing out fossil fuel vehicles in 20 years. The government has sought to renew the momentum in promoting the use of electric vehicles, with HK$2 billion set aside to upgrade parking facilities to EV charging. But the experience of other green initiatives by the bureau does not instil public confidence.
According to the bureau, the public is to be consulted on the outcome of a review on the existing plastic shopping bag charging scheme in the coming year. The number of plastic bags discarded into the landfills each year dropped from 8 billion before the scheme came into effect to 3.93 billion in 2015; but the figure rebounded to 4.4 billion in 2017.
To enhance the scheme, the minister did not rule out raising the 50-cent levy, adding that polythene bags for carrying frozen goods and bakery items may also be taxed.
Such measures are likely to encounter public resistance. But like other initiatives, they are positive steps to make Hong Kong a greener city. The government needs to show stronger will to deliver.
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