Press Release: Response to Government Climate Change Consultation and Results of Nuclear Power Opinion Survey

Independent public policy thank-tank Civic Exchange today released its response to the Government’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda and also released the findings from a new survey on Hong Kong people’s attitudes towards nuclear power.

Christine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Exchange, identified the core requirement of a Sustainable Low Carbon Development (SLCD) framework for Hong Kong to address climate change: “The Sustainable Low Carbon Development Framework should present a clear vision, with a focus on measurable and transparent reductions of GHG emissions, especially from existing buildings, and a roadmap that that sets out a clear timeframe and policy direction for how this vision should be achieved.”
Civic Exchange’s response set out its view of the Government’s proposed fuel mix change, how to respond to the public’s views relating to taking more nuclear power from the mainland, energy efficiency of buildings, and adaptation measures:
Fuel switch – There is a pressing need to reduce the dependency on coal for power generation. However, the public’s view on nuclear power remains divided, and it is essential for the HKSAR Government to increase public education and discussion on this key area of concern.

Civic Exchange’s new public opinion survey Expanding Hong Kong’s Nuclear Power Base, also released today, is a supplement to an earlier public opinion survey A Climate of Change released in July 2010 on Hong Kong people’s attitudes to climate change before the HKSAR Government released its Consultation Document and proposed to increase the use of nuclear power for the generation of Hong Kong’s electricity from current levels.

Five key findings about the attitudes towards nuclear power were drawn from the survey:

Relatively low level of concern about accidents
A majority of Hong Kong people have low levels of concern about a nuclear accident (53% with little or no concern, compared with 33% with some or a great deal of concern).

More concerned about climate change
There is more concern about climate change than nuclear accidents (41% more concerned about climate change, compared with 34% more concerned about nuclear accidents).

Current fuel mix widely misunderstood
Most people (90%) do not know how much of Hong Kong’s electricity comes from nuclear power (40% are unwilling to guess at all).

Equal support for and against expanded nuclear power
Support for and against increasing the use of nuclear power by Hong Kong is evenly weighted (41% each).

Concerns with expansion
The major concerns of those who do not support expanding Hong Kong’s nuclear power base were transparency; the competence of engineers and management; nuclear accidents; and dangers to future generations.
The results indicate that the HKSAR Government will need to effectively communicate the benefits of its fuel mix proposal, help the public to understand nuclear power, as well as address public concerns on the issues of information transparency, management and safety protocols.
Buildings – The HKSAR Government must focus on reducing energy usage in existing buildings. Mandatory disclosure of energy performance is the key to stimulating market-driven transformation, while better integration of policies and processes (including procurement, design and management) will lead to more effective and efficient interventions. The key technical interventions are commissioning, re-commissioning and retrofitting of buildings.
Greener Transport – Comparison between urban planning priorities, as well as different modes of transport reveals that switching the emphasis from private cars to cycling and pedestrian-prioritization is highly cost-effective, will reduce emissions and improve general livability at street level. However, a rethink of Hong Kong’s transport-led planning processes is essential to deliver many of these outcomes.
Waste – Capturing methane and combining incineration with small scale generation seem obvious steps to take within a much deeper rethink of the large-scale crisis that has driven the demand to turn country parks into landfills.

Issues that have barely been touched include uncertainty in our water supply as a result of changed rainfall patterns, the need to provide linkages between our country parks to help our biodiversity adapt, and the climate impacts of land use change. There is still no plan to address shoreline flooding, while the need to for better co-operation between the Drainage Services, Planning and Civil Engineering and Development Departments is clear.

Civic Exchange also proposed that all new projects, policies and strategies should be required to carry out a carbon assessment of all projects, comparing the carbon impacts of new projects with the existing emissions of a given site or policy. Such an assessment would encourage developers and planner to select brownfield over greenfield sites, and to consider retrofit before demolition and replacement in urban areas.

Civic Exchange firmly believes that the Government should seize the opportunities inherent in meeting the challenges of climate change to begin repositioning Hong Kong. A SLCD framework will offer the community a strong sense of shared purpose and direction, while greater transparency will help both to communicate and stimulate progress (especially in our aging building stock). Finally, a more adaptable and energy efficient city is also a more economically efficient city and, where the right policies lead to the best-targeted executions, a more livable city too.