Achieving Sustainable Development for Hong Kong (Oct 2001)

Introduction

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP) fully supports the Government in moving towards the achieving of sustainable development for Hong Kong. We believe that the Government has taken a very important step in the right direction.

We supports the broad direction of the Government to pursue sustainable development in Hong Kong that balances social, economic and environmental needs, both for present and future generations, simultaneously achieving a vibrant economy, social progress and better environmental quality, locally, nationally and internationally, through the efforts of the community and the Government.

We urge the Government to speed up the implementation of the committed initiatives. We recommend the Government to undertake two very important tasks as soon as possible:

Adopt a territory-wide policy on sustainable development in addition to a tool for evaluation. Implement this policy by requiring the individual government bureaux/departments to target sustainable development as their goals, prepare their own sustainable development action plans and report on the progress of implementing these plans to the public.

Lead an extension public discussion on how to attain sustainable development for Hong Kong in relation to 5 fundamental issues: quality of life, population growth, integration with Pearl River Delta, social development, manpower and employment.

These sustainable development action plans prepared by the bureaux/departments should demonstrate concerted effort and undertake proactive actions in achieving balances between the social, economic and environmental needs of Hong Kong. The involvement of the business sector and the community, and the youth in particular, is key to the success of achieving sustainable development in our city. An independent policy research centre should be set up to promote and provide advice on policy and best practices both to the Government and to the private sector. 

The Commitments of the Government to Pursue Sustainable Development in Hong Kong

The Institute understands that the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR has decided in previous Policy Address to:

Set up a Council for Sustainable Development. Its functions will be to provide expert advice to the Government and keep the public regularly informed about its work;

Put aside a $100 million grant be made to support community initiatives on sustainable development especially on educational programmes for citizens and students to develop a strong awareness of sustainability;

All Government policy bureaux will in the future be required to carry out "sustainability impact assessments" of major new policy proposals; and

A Sustainable Development Unit will be established to monitor these assessments and provide analysis and support to the Council. 

Based on the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21), the Government will set up a list of Sustainable Indicators on the economic, social and environmental aspects of Hong Kong. Government policy bureaux will use a computer aided sustainability evaluation tool (CASET) to evaluate strategic decisions and policies at an early stage in order to identify impacts for special attention. Sustainability evaluation reports on the decisions will be submitted to Chief Secretary's Committee (CSC) or the Executive Council.

 

Broadening the Horizon --- 8 Recommendations for Ways Forward

 

With the setting up the Sustainable Development Unit within the Office of the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Government is moving into the implementation stage of the sustainable development initiatives. While the Institute would like the Government to implement the various initiatives as soon as possible, we would suggest the Government to broaden the scope by adopting the following key directions for the ways forward.

 

1.   The Government should lead an extension public discussion on how to attain sustainable development for Hong Kong

 

To achieve sustainable development for Hong Kong, the Institute believes that there are 5 fundamental issues that need extensive public discussions to provide input for the Government in policy formulation. These critical issues include:

 

Ÿ            Quality of life;

Ÿ            Population growth;

Ÿ            Integration with Pearl River Delta;

Ÿ            Social development;

Ÿ            Manpower and employment. 

 

The Government should initiate public discussions on how to achieve sustainable development in relation to these issues.

 

 

2.    Hong Kong needs a proactive policy on sustainable development

 

The sustainable impact assessment approach is passive in nature. It is only an evaluation tool used to respond to specific proposals and is not a policy objective on its own. We believe that while the evaluation can highlight the factual impacts of certain proposals on the social, economic and environmental aspects of thong Kong, the Government must have a value system that guides the final decisions.

 

Hong Kong needs an overarching proactive policy for sustainable development with supporting actions to be implemented. Based on the results of the public debates suggested above on the 5 critical issues, the policy should define values, priorities, and specific objectives linked to action plans that ensure sustainable development for Hong Kong. The policy should be reviewed with public input at least once every 5 years.

 

The policy should also clarify the respective roles of the existing advisory broads and committees in the pursuit of sustainable development (such as the Advisory Council on Environment, Town Planning Board, Antiquity Advisory Board, etc.), as well as protect the integrity of existing statutory frameworks already in force (such as the Environmental Impact Assessment, Town Planning Ordinance, etc).

 

 

3.    Implement the sustainable development policy through action oriented work plans of Government bureaux and departments

 

One direction is to urge all policy bureaux to identify, within their own policy areas, issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve sustainable development in Hong Kong. Then they should prepare their corresponding action plans. The intention is to facilitate the relevant bureaux/departments to broaden their perspectives on what they do and how they do it - to take environmental, economic and social considerations into account more systematically in their policies, programs and operations. Policy bureaux/departments should be required to set up specific strategies for their policy areas, objectives and action plans. They should report their progress in undertaking these actions to the Council for Sustainable Development on an annual basis. The Sustainable Development Unit will monitor the progress of the work plans of the bureaux/departments.

 

 

4.    Specific Sustainable Development Strategies on Land Use Planning

 

While the Institute recommends the Government to prepare and implement sustainable development strategies in all relevant bureaux/departments, we would strongly urge the Government to adopt the following specific strategies related directly to land use planning in Hong Kong:

 

Ÿ            Promote environmentally friendly rail systems as the major local transportation networks. Develop the networks based on a full assessment of their social and environmental benefits, in addition to only financial viability. Examine the cost effectiveness of reducing capital expenditures for highway construction and cross subsidize the development of mass transit systems in Hong Kong.

 

Ÿ            Enhance community and public participation in the planning process by allowing public to express their comments both during the statutory plan preparation process and on planning applications.

 

Ÿ            Adopt a statutory regulation approach to promote urban design under the Town Planning Ordinance to cover areas of special design interests (such as the waterfronts and other areas of special characters in Hong Kong) in order to improve the quality of our city.

 

Ÿ            Proceed as soon as possible to enact the draft Town Planning Bill to make the planning system in Hong Kong more open, more efficient and effective, and involve the public in various stages of the planning process.

 

Ÿ            Set out a nature, historical and built heritage conservation policy for Hong Kong spelling out the position of the Government in the protection of areas of international, regional and local conservation importance. This policy must be backed up by a comprehensive historical built heritage and nature conservation database for Hong Kong, as well as clear and certain guidelines on development rights and land use intentions.

 

Ÿ            Establish non-profit making heritage trust funds to acquire, improve and manage sites of special nature or built heritage conservation significance.

 

Ÿ            Adopt as a priority, pedestrianisation schemes in existing urban areas of Hong Kong based on their urban design, environmental and social benefits to the local community, not just on transportation and traffic assessments. 

 

 

5.   Transparency in Decision Making

 

The results of sustainability impact assessment and the decisions made based on the assessment should be made public. One way of achieving this is to make the contents of the sustainability evaluation reports available to the Council for Sustainable Development. The Council meetings will be open to public. We believe that the specifics in the assessment and the potential impacts of policy decisions are of interest to the public. The process should be made transparent.

 

We would also recommend the Government to invite the representatives from relevant professional bodies including the HKIP to sit on the Council.

 

 

6.   Set up a Business Round Table on Sustainable Development

 

It is important that the corporate sector supports and promotes sustainable development. We recommend the Government to fund the setting up of a Business Round Table for Sustainable Development. The Round Table should encompass representatives and members of the business communities in Hong Kong. It will promote various initiatives within the private sector to achieve a sustainable Hong Kong. The work plan of the Round Table could include seminars, training, research, promotion and marketing, private-public joint projects, advocacy for a sustainable Hong Kong. It could also provide a forum for business leaders, industrial experts, researchers, NGOs, and government policy makers to discuss strategies and management tools for achieving sustainable development in business.

 

 

7.    Set up an Independent Research Centre on Sustainable Development for Hong Kong

 

The Government should support an independent research centre that will carry out continuous policy research on sustainable development in Hong Kong. It should focus on providing policy and 'best practices' research support to the Government, the business sector and the community on sustainable development issues in Hong Kong. It should also cooperate with adjacent areas in cross boundary sustainable development research and studies.

 

 

8.    Formulate a Youth Agenda 21 for Hong Kong

 

The future of Hong Kong is in the hands of our younger generations. It is important we promote education and participation of the students and young people in sustainable development. We recommend the Government to formulate a programme that formulates a Youth Agenda 21 for Hong Kong. The programme must be participatory in nature with full involvement of the relevant sectors in the community. The Youth Agenda 21 will be a sustainable development plan for Hong Kong aspired and prepared by the youth. It should include a series of programmes and actions that will be carried out by the youth directly over 5 years.

 

In Summary

 

The HKIP supports fully the intention of the Chief Executive to move towards achieving sustainable development in Hong Kong. We urges the Government to speed up the implementation of the commitments made in the previous Policy Address and widen the scope of the actions to be taken. It is important that Hong Kong adopts a policy on sustainable development in addition to a tool for evaluation. Moreover, we believe that proactive actions must be undertaken by individual Government bureaux/departments in achieving balances between the social, economic and environmental needs of Hong Kong. The involvement of the business sector and the youth is key to the success of achieving sustainable development in our city. An independent policy research centre should be set up to promote and provide advice on policy and best practices both to the Government and to the private sector.

Public Affairs Committee
Hong Kong Institute of Planners
7 October 2001

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