Leadership on fighting air pollution?
… not likely, but we want to be wrong about this …
Dear Subscribers and Friends
Chief Executive Donald Tsang (DT) spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club today and took questions. He said the government found only 5% of international stories this year about Hong Kong were considered ‘negative’. These must have included several high profile stories on our deteriorating air quality.
A. Q/A on air quality … full transcript
1. Question: “Are you aware that Disney will not be using the best technology for lowest noise and air pollution for their nightly fireworks? Hong Kong, the Government as a key investor in the project, should you not exercise your leadership to make sure that we operate Disney at the highest environmental standards?” [Q by yours truly]
2. DT’s Answer: “We have already done what we can in the sense that the technology being used, as I understand it, would comply with the Hong Kong legislation or the environmental rules that we have established for protecting the environment of Hong Kong. They have complied with it and they have passed the test and I am satisfied with those tests.”
B. Logic of complaint …
1. Relevant facts: Hong Kong government (HKG) is the major shareholder in the Disney theme park. HKG used taxpayers’ money to lend to Disney for their equity injection. Promises were made that operations would be at international standards and Hong Kong people would be proud.
2. Local complaints: Discovery Bay residents are complaining about noise level and air pollution from the fireworks. Green groups say the nightly fireworks will contribute to ambient air pollution which is already very bad.
3. Save a few dollars?: Disney is not using the technology it uses in California because its spokesperson said what it will use here already meets local requirements. Hong Kong’s air quality objectives are much less stringent than California’s standards.
4. DT’s satisfaction: DT is satisfied.
C. Leading means being in front …
1. Aim high: HKG negotiated with Disney on many aspects of the arrangement. It could have made sure as equity partner the park would adopt best environmental practices, even better than local standards require because it could be a best practice showcase. HKG likely didn’t think about aiming high.
2. Win win: It is surprising Disney did not opt for the best technology so that public complaints could have been avoided altogether.
3. Nightly reminder?: The price may be that every night, we will be reminded that Hong Kong could have done better but Disney wanted to save some money and HKG forgot to safeguard the people’s best interest when the people lent Disney the money in the first place.
Civic Exchange – HK’s independent think tank