Press release: 37 Hong Kong Civic Groups’ Joint Statement urges the Government to Establish Key Institutions for Effective Nature Conservation

Hong Kong, 18 January 2013 … 37 civic groups1 together release a Joint Statement in support of the Chief Executive’s commitment move forward with the Convention on Biological Diversity in his 2013 Policy Address2

The Joint Statement to the Hong Kong SAR Government on compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity asserts the following 5 points: 

  1. We welcome the Chief Executive’s Policy Address 2013 commitment to strengthen biodiversity conservation in Hong Kong under the key principles and actions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  2. In particular we strongly support the commitment to work with the public to develop a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) for Hong Kong – a process that has begun with the productive exchange of views earlier this month between environmental experts and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Environment Bureau.
  3. Equally important is the Chief Executive’s commitment to begin incorporating (or “mainstreaming”) biodiversity considerations into future government work. In order to ensure these commitments are well executed, we now call on the Chief Executive to establish a high-level steering committee, led by himself or the Chief Secretary, to provide the necessary authority to develop a BSAP that has widespread public and government support to mainstream conservation into the policies and plans of different bureaux and departments.
  4. This steering group should oversee a working group comprising relevant officials and non-government experts on biodiversity conservation whose task is to manage the development of the BSAP according to the principles set out in the CBD. Ideally this working group will be co-chaired by the Environment Bureau and a non-government expert in conservation3.
  5. Only through this collaborative approach will a true community effort emerge. We look forward to working closely with Government in a process which will better protect our natural heritage and ensure an improving quality of life for all Hong Kong citizens.

“The Chief Executive’s commitment to start planning for nature conservation in line with the CBD, as outlined in the Policy Address, must be spearheaded by the right institutions. Much can be gained from involving the community from the outset, and involving non-government members in a working group to drive the development of the BSAP will likely yield a community-based outcome that is well-supported,” said Wilson Lau, Research and Project Officer, Civic Exchange.

“This Policy Address highlighted a number of potentially competing priorities, including commitments to the CBD and the urgent need to provide more housing for the needy. How to fulfill this and other developments crucial to the society without compromising biological diversity – the earth’s life supporting system that is also intricately linked to our quality of life, will be an increasing challenge for the Government,” said Dr. Michael Lau, Acting Director, Conservation, WWF-Hong Kong.

“This type of big picture, long-term thinking by the government is needed to preserve Hong Kong’s position as one of the world’s leading cities. The Nature Conservancy has been involved in similar plans around the world and we have found that a thoughtful planning process involving the government, experts, businesses and the wider community can produce better a better economic environment as well as healthier air, water, land and marine environments. It’s a smarter way to grow,” said Charles Bedford, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific, The Nature Conservancy.

“The benefits of a comprehensive BSAP should not be underestimated. If fully developed and supported by the community, such a plan can not only protect our unique biodiversity, safeguarding iconic species such as the Chinese white dolphin and black-faced spoonbill, but can help maintain the rich mix of scenery, habitats and plants and animals that also call our city home. We must not forget that our quality of life depends on the ecosystem services that nature endows, supplying water and filtering the air, and its role in fostering social harmony,” said Dr. Martin Williams, Director, Hong Kong Outdoors. 

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was established in 1992 at the inaugural Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. China became one of the first signatories of the Convention, and was subsequently extended to Hong Kong in 2011. Hong Kong is now obliged to develop a city-based BSAP by 20154, which the government intends to comply with, having issued a timetable that sets out key milestones for publication and public engagement over this period.

References:

(1) The 37 civic groups that have signed the Joint Statement are:

  1. ADM Capital Foundation
  2. Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong
  3. BLOOM Association
  4. Civic Exchange
  5. Designing Hong Kong
  6. Earthwatch Institute
  7. Eco Association
  8. Ecovision Asia
  9. Environmental Life Sciences Society
  10. Friends of Hoi Ha
  11. Friends of Sai Kung
  12. Friends of the Earth
  13. Green Lantau Association
  14. Greenpeace
  15. Green Power
  16. Greeners Action
  17. Hong Kong Outdoors
  18. HKWildlife.net
  19. Hong Kong Bird Watching Society        
  20. Hong Kong Cleanup
  21. Hong Kong Countryside Foundation
  22. Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society
  23. Hong Kong Firefly Research Association
  24. Hong Kong Shark Foundation
  25. Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Gardens
  26. Non Profit Making Veterinary Services Society
  27. Living Cheung Chau
  28. Living Islands Movement
  29. Living Lamma
  30. Living Seas Hong Kong
  31. Ocean Recovery Alliance
  32. Produce Green Foundation
  33. The 30SGroup
  34. The Conservancy Association
  35. The Nature Conservancy
  36. Transition South Lantau
  37. WWF-Hong Kong

(2) 2013 Policy Address: http://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2013/index.html

(3) The foundation for these recommendations is a Civic Exchange research paper Developing a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong. The paper sets out the key steps and administrative requirements for Hong Kong to develop a BSAP, based on CBD guidance and principles.

Developing a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong can be downloaded from:
http://www.civic-exchange.org/wp/201212bsap_en/

(4) Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Target 17, states that all parties must have started implementing their BSAP by 2015: http://www.cbd.int/sp/targets/

Bilingual Joint Statement: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/2439304/uploads/201301JointStatement.jpg