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Building a Sustainable Community (English only)

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The following is the speech by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr Gordon Siu, at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Conference today (March 22):

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I congratulate the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Business Coalition on the Environment, and the sponsors for organising this conference. The theme: "Building a Sustainable Community", is clearly on the minds of many of us. We have just seen East Asia going through a period of economic adjustment; in some areas growth seems to have returned. Good, but will this be sustainable? Will economic growth be sustained at the expense of social development and preservation of our environment?

Hong Kong and Canada have been close partners for several years in a programme to build understanding and capacity to address environmental issues. One of the issues we must address is how to move on from the general concept of sustainable development to practical procedures that incorporate the concept into decision making. This conference is an excellent opportunity to address this issue, in partnership.

Some of us here this morning will have been involved at some point in the exercise which my colleagues in the Planning Department started nearly three years ago, the Sustainable Development for the 21st Century Study, which concluded last year. We began public exhibitions and consultations in 1998, to draw out ideas about the direction and scope for the study, and to develop a list of indicators for measuring sustainable growth. After working for two years, which involved over 100 seminars, workshops and exhibitions, we have come up with a series of recommendations. They all point to one direction: we need to garner a change of mindset in both the Administration and the community at large.

We have now begun to take steps to change this mindset within the Administration. On 9 March our Legislative Council approved funds to set up a new unit directly under the Chief Secretary to ensure that all bureaux and departments bear in mind the concept of sustainable development when they develop major policies and programmes in the days ahead. Training programmes for government staff have started, and the new unit will be formed in April.

The responsibility for better incorporating economic understanding, environmental considerations, and social values into the policy making process is of course not something for the new unit alone. It is a responsibility of every bureau, every department, and every sector of the community. The new unit will therefore have a team to work with community groups. I welcome your event today. Public discussion and debate at a forum like this one helps us and the community learn together on how to meet Hong Kong's economic and social needs in ways that do not over-stretch the capacity of our natural environment.

It is also in this context that the Planning Department started this year on the 'Hong Kong 2030' study, which aims to formulate land-use, transport and environmental measures for Hong Kong's development in the next 30 years. This is the first time in Hong Kong's history that the principle of sustainable development is explicitly incorporated as one of the key objectives in a territorial development study. We have just launched the first round of public consultation to gauge views on the study objectives. I am particularly pleased to note that many members of the public now readily agree on the importance of planning for a sustainable future for Hong Kong. This is exactly the sort of momentum that I would like to see sustained in our community.

Have we done enough? No, we haven't, and I don't think we ever will. There isn't some happy state that we can aim at which, when we get there, there will be utopia: sustainable development is a continuous challenge, one which each and every society must face at each state of its development. For us, sustainable development must be a life-long goal; for Mother Earth, it is probably its only life-line.

End/Thursday, March 22, 2001

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