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Special Report – To charge and raise awareness

Implementation of the “polluter pays” principle is proceeding slowly. The government is focused more on awareness-raising and incentive initiatives, such as the Macau Green Hotel Awards.

MB September 2021 Special Report | Green Macau

Just over two years ago, at the end of Chui Sai On’s term, the Government promised several environmental measures: strengthening ecological education, promoting the use of green energy, establishing an integrated treatment mechanism for mobile sources of pollution, implementing a “polluter pays” measure, encourage a reduction in the use of plastic, accelerating the construction of ecological infrastructure and creating greener spaces including leisure spaces.

On that occasion, the same Government official also announced that “the environment of the hilly zones will also be recovered, and regional environmental cooperation will be intensified, with exploration of further development opportunities for the environmental protection industry,” with advancement in realizing “the vision to ‘transform Macau into a low-carbon centre and create an ecological life together’, contributing to the sustainable development of the city.”

Among these declared intentions two deserve special mention: the “polluter pays” principle and the fight against plastic.

Today it is internationally accepted that it’s only when the polluter starts to pay for the effects of the pollution produced that a clear reduction can be achieved. Macau has turned to this maxim, but thus far only to combat the use of plastic.

In 2019 the Macau Government implemented a surcharge to limit the use of plastic bags.

However, Macau SAR policymakers have been hesitant to extend the measure into legislation restricting the use of other disposable plastic items, namely plastic bottles. Several environmentalists have asked the government to set dates and targets for the reduction of these and other disposable plastic products.

Five years ago, the DSPA awarded a “Study on Macau’s Domestic Garbage Collection Scheme” to the Hong Kong Productivity Council as part of the Macau Environmental Protection Plan (2010–2020) [see text on these pages].

The idea was to implement of “reduction at source, separation, and recycling” measures, with the gradual introduction of a “polluter pays” or “producer responsibility” scheme.

But with these and other matters, the Government of Macau has preferred to raise awareness and promote incentives aimed at increasing environmental awareness, even if only indirectly.

Perhaps the best example is the “Macau Green Hotel Award”, presented by the DSPA since 2007. This award aims to improve awareness of the importance of environmentally responsible management in Macau’s hotel industry by commending those hotels that have adopted environmentally responsible measures.

Dozens of hotels in Macau have already received the award, especially those highest-rated (with four and five stars).

“Clearly, five-star hotels have made significant strides toward improving energy efficiency,” concluded a team of researchers led by Qingbin Song, Macau Environmental Research Institute, Macau University of Science and Technology.

Two other Macau-based scholars studied “The Impact of Green Certification on Hotel Green Practices”, using the existing “Green Hotel Award” as a case study.

Jian Ming Luo and Yulan Fan, both from City University of Macau, believe this form of recognition “is a success.”

Luo and Fan explain that over 70 per cent of the hotels in Macau (data from 2019) have developed and implemented one or several environmental protection strategies since the Award was established. “In general, hotels are keen to implement green practices in order to win the Macau Green Hotel Award, which shows that the Macau Green Hotel Award has had some impact on hotels’ green practices.”

According to findings in their paper, The Impact of Green Certification on Hotel Green Practices: A Case Study on the Green Hotel Award in Macau (2019), “more and more hotels in Macau, therefore, have started actively implementing green practices in order to win the Award. The total number of award-winning hotels had increased to 51 by 2017, accounting for almost half of Macau’s hotels.”

“The Macau Green Hotel Award is a success” – Luo and Fan

“Boost” natural gas

A few weeks ago the director of the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA), Raymond Tam, assured the public that the Executive will prioritize the use of natural gas in public projects, as well as boost its use in hotels and tourist facilities.

It is, however, essential to complete the pipeline network that will supply the natural gas to the Peninsula. “The completion of the construction of the natural gas supply pipeline network between the Macau Peninsula and Cotai will contribute to the widespread use of natural gas, and the Government will prioritize its use in public projects that meet the conditions, for example Mong Ha Social Housing (phase two)”, said Tam.

Another priority for the DSPA is to require new buildings to be compatible with the use of natural gas.

The concession contract for the import and supply of natural gas to the territory closes at the end of this year, but the Government is “negotiating” a revision with Sinosky Energy.

Last August, Mr Tam also revealed that the Government would conduct a study on the production of local energy, such as natural gas or the installation of solar panels.

Waiting for the results

The Environmental Protection Planning of Macau (2010–2020) expired in December, but there was no immediate record made of the measures that were implemented, nor an assessment of those that remained on paper.

The DSPA told Macau Business it has already hired a research entity to carry out a study on the status of compliance with the Planning “in order to assess its effectiveness, and it is expected to be completed this year. The respective results will be published in due course.”

The Environmental Protection Bureau nevertheless asserts that “since the Planning’s implementation, the various action plans have been carried out systematically.”

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