Cablegate: Macau's New Environmental Protection Bureau: Good
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHHK #2167/01 3290655
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250655Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9040
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 002167
STATE FOR EAP/CM, OES/ENV
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ENIV ENRG PGOV SENV CH MC
SUBJECT: MACAU'S NEW ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION BUREAU: GOOD
INTENTIONS BUT LACKING TIMELINE AND CAPACITY
REF: HONG KONG 522
1. SUMMARY: Macau,s newly established Environmental
Protection Bureau (EPB) seeks to raise the profile of
environmental issues and help Macau market itself to foreign
investors and visitors as a "green city." Macau
environmental officials have several initiatives to promote
environmentally sound operations and reduce air and noise
pollution, but their timelines are unclear and the EPB's
capacity is still lacking. EPB officials are focusing their
efforts on public education rather than setting new standards
and regulations to address their environmental concerns. END
2. Comment: The EPB's origins lie in public education.
Given its lack of scientific or regulatory expertise, its
current policy focus emphasizes promoting environmental
awareness and certifying "green" business practices. The EPB
would benefit from exposure to international norms and best
practices in environmental regulation to build expertise and
credibility as it grows into an effective regulatory body.
3. ECONOFFs recently visited Macau,s new Environmental
Protection Bureau (EPB) and met with Vong Man Hung, Deputy
Director and Ieong Kin Si, Head of Environmental Publicity,
Education and Cooperation Department to discuss the newly
established Bureau's responsibilities, plans, and goals.
The New Bureau and its Responsibilities
4. Established on June 29, Macau,s EPB falls under the
direction of the Secretary of Transport and Public Works.
The EPB replaces the Environmental Protection Committee which
was limited to an advisory role and had focused on public
education campaigns. The Committee's limited mandate made it
impossible for it to adequately address the increasing
environmental concerns resulting from Macau's rapid growth.
Vong stated that the Committee's replacement by a
bureau-level organization allowed more resources to be
devoted to key environmental concerns. The EPB was given a
wider range of duties to better manage pollution control,
approve infrastructure development, address the public's
environmental concerns, and participate in cross-border
cooperation with mainland China.
5. The establishment of the EPB is a big step for Macau as
it seeks to raise the profile of environmental issues and
position itself to foreign investors and visitors as a "green
city." Its statutory responsibilities include pollution
monitoring and control, environmental impact assessments,
environmental planning and evaluation of infrastructure, and
environmental education and promotion. The EPB also has
authority over environmentally sensitive waste water
treatment and refuse incineration plants, both of which are
managed by private service providers.
Good Ideas that Need Definition
6. Senior officials have tasked the EPB with several
ambitious projects and initiatives to further Macau's goal of
becoming a "green city." The EPB intends to focus its
eco-friendly efforts on the hotel industry, construction,
technology and the use of "green labeling" on Macau products.
However, when asked for details, officials replied that the
requirements had not yet been defined and that these projects
were still in the planning stages.
7. EPB officials stated that Macau,s top public concerns
were air and noise pollution, as both were closely related to
quality of life. To address air pollution problems, the EPB
was examining roadside pollution and trying to promote public
transportation. EPB was also considering a monorail system
to reduce the number of cars on the road. In addition, it
implemented in July a ban on the sale of two-stroke
motorcycles and four-stroke engines with emissions exceeding
legal requirements. In September, the EPB introduced the
concept of "eco-ride" to encourage car pooling, the use of
bicycles and public transportation. To combat noise
pollution, future changes to zoning were under consideration.
The EPB noted that efforts to combat both forms of pollution
would require public education and changes in behavior.
8. Although the EPB and the Transport Bureau were under the
same cabinet secretary, it was unclear how much cooperation
existed between the bureaus. When asked about improvements
to the bus system, EPB officials stated that old buses
currently in use fell under the authority of the Transport
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Bureau and that emission standards had not yet been agreed
to. However, officials also cited examples of cooperation,
such as "No Cars Day," which gained support from
associations, companies, governmental departments, and
thousands of citizens. Officials also spoke favorably about
their cooperation with the Health Bureau on Macau,s "Health
9. Officials highlighted various projects, including
designating environmentally friendly schools as "Green
Schools", as examples of the certification approach the EPB
favored. The Green Schools project aimed to promote
environmental management by engaging principals, facility
management staff, and faculty and to establish a system for
"green" certification, similar to the EPB's Green Hotel
program. Another example was the "Green Construction"
project to promote environmentally friendly construction
practices in design, demolition, and building. The EPB was
working with the University of Macau and ISO 9000 to
establish criteria and guidelines for green construction
projects. In both cases, actual regulation was considered to
be far off in the future.
10. Macau,s EPB is currently staffed by 16 employees.
However, the EPB's goal is to eventually increase human
resources to over one hundred staff. The timeline and
approach for this staffing increase were unclear.
First Education, Then Regulation
11. Macau EPB officials stated that they needed to increase
public awareness of environmental issues before trying to
implement new environmental laws. To this end, the officials
stated that one of their top priorities was to improve the
quality of the environmental message to the public. For
example, while reducing emissions remained a long-term
objective, EPB officials stated that they aimed to achieve
emission targets through public education first, then
regulation. EPB officials were also considering public
consultations in formulating new environmental policies.