SCM Post laisee again on the third runway case today:
Howard Winn SCMP Lai See
Updated on Jun 02, 2012
Hong Kong's green groups are planning on sending a joint letter to the Airport Authority asking it to conduct a social return on investment study (SROI). The letter will note that at the Environmental Policy Forum organised by environmental groups ahead of the chief executive's election, Leung Chun-ying supported conducting social and environmental cost assessments for economic development and large infrastructure projects such as the third runway. It will also note that the Legco environmental affairs panel unanimously passed a motion on April 23 demanding an SROI, strategic impact assessment and carbon audit be conducted before the runway is built. The letter will invite the authority to respond, possibly, within two weeks. If it decides against the SROI, the green groups say they will boycott the focus groups that the authority wants to set up as part of its environmental impact assessment process. This would be a blow for the authority since in the press release that accompanied the publication of its project profile, it makes great play of involving green groups in the EIA process.
So far the authority has said nothing on the subject other than respond to a query from Lai See in which it said it would comply with the law. Since it is not legally required to conduct an SROI study, we took that as a no. The authority has backed itself into an awkward corner because while it is refusing to conduct an SROI, which is considered best practice by organisations such as the World Bank, a few weeks ago it pledged to make itself the "greenest airport in the world". Unless it treads carefully it will find itself undertaking the massive project without the support of the green organisations. This may not have mattered a few years ago, but the political climate has changed and the signs are that environmental issues will play a more important part in C.Y.'s thinking than they ever did under Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.