Tribute to Prof Bill Barron

Professor Bill Barron, a former Director of Civic Exchange and an Associate Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), passed away on 4 January 2018 at his home in Portland, Oregon, after a battle with cancer. Civic Exchange sends our deepest condolences to his family, colleagues and friends.

Prof Barron’s long teaching career in Hong Kong, which began in 1989, included roles as Associate Professor at The University of Hong Kong’s Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, Adjunct Associate Professor and Visiting Associate Professor for the HKUST Division of the Environment, and Visiting Scholar for the HKUST Institute for the Environment.

He was involved in the formation of Civic Exchange in 2000 and played many roles in the organization, including as a Board Director, donor, project manager, researcher and mentor to young environmentalists. He authored or co-authored multiple publications for Civic Exchange on issues including sustainable transport, marine emissions, clean fuels, and air pollution. He spoke passionately and regularly on the preservation of the Hong Kong harbourfront, the need for better air quality standards, and urban planning.

As an environmental economist, with a PhD in Economics for Public Decision-Making from Johns Hopkins University, Prof Barron’s expertise was in how to balance sustainability and development. His book, “The Great Disconnect” (2009), laid out the challenges to the sustainability of the current economic system, and then considered possible market, government and values-driven responses. He was also an adviser on energy issues for laboratories and governments in the United States, Pakistan and Liberia.


“Bill was a generous soul who contributed greatly to our organization, who was respected and beloved by his colleagues. We are grateful for Bill’s years of research, which were invaluable in promoting environmental protection. Bill was a good friend to many people here, and will be missed dearly.” – Winnie CW Cheung, Civic Exchange CEO

“Bill was a very good friend. He was always generous with his time and knowledge as a working partner. He was always fun to be with and we laughed about so many things. His will to live was strong, and he bore the discomforts with dignity. He was grateful for the last 10 years but he knew it was time to go and he prepared for it. His realism touched me deeply and his passing left a significant gap for me and many others. – Christine Loh, Civic Exchange Co-founder

“Bill was a kind, funny and generous man who was a great supporter of Civic Exchange from the beginning. He was a man of great integrity, something of an iconoclast, and someone who was not afraid to stand up for issues which he believed in. He was always a voice of reason and acted as a wise mentor to many young environmentalists as well as teaching a generation of Hong Kong environmental students. He was a good man whose contribution to Civic Exchange and Hong Kong was immense and who touched many lives.” – Lisa Hopkinson, Civic Exchange co-founder 

“It’s a real privilege to have worked alongside Bill in the past 20 years at HKU, HKUST and Civic Exchange. He dedicated his entire time in Hong Kong to make the city sustainable and liveable through his quality research and relentless passion. Bill was a dear friend, a respectable scholar, and a role model to me. His spirit will last beyond his time, and inspire others to add to his legacy. Rest in peace, Bill.” – Simon Ng, Civic Exchange Fellow and former Chief Research Officer

“I first met Bill in the late 1980s when Christine [Loh] was working with the Citizens Party. Together with Bill, they were raising concerns about air quality which now, as we look back, was far ahead of its time. He was a great thinker.” – Sophie LeClue, Director, Environment Programme, ADM Capital Foundation

“One of Bill’s wise insights, which he spoke of often, which remains with me and has become one of my own, is that ‘no experience is wasted.’ He essentially explained that though you might not know today how it will be useful or why you are doing it, you should trust that it will be useful” – Kylie Uebergang, Civic Exchange Board Director  

“My wonderful memories with Bill dated all the way back to around 2000, when we worked together at HKUST. Over the years, Bill and I were involved in many projects through our careers. Bill was an exceptionally gifted professor and mentor, a deeply devoted friend, and a highly accomplished individual. Over the years, Bill’s passion in his teaching had made tremendous positive effects on our students. He truly is a remarkable person who imparted so much wisdom to all of us. Bill lived his life fully, passionately and brilliantly. Even though he may have left us physically, he will never leave our hearts. He was a colleague and a close friend.” – Jimmy Fung, Professor and Head of the Division of Environment and Sustainability, HKUST

“I adored working with Bill and miss his wonderful sense of humour, intellect and perspective on the world.  He was an asset to Hong Kong and Civic Exchange and his legacy will live on.” – Michele Weldon, Civic Exchange Programme Director

“Bill Barron the generous, affable, wonderful connector.  He introduced me to so many interesting people.” – J Robert Gibson, Civic Exchange Fellow 

“As my teacher and mentor, you taught me many things – the joys of Guinness and how to live life to the fullest and without regret. Much of what I have achieved and the spirit you have instilled in me towards life, I owe to you.” – Jeanne Ng, Prof. Barron’s former student, now Director – Group Sustainability at CLP Power Hong Kong

“Bill was a true embodiment of Hong Kong’s can-do spirit. He practiced what he preached. He stood steadfastly for the causes of environment and public transport. A true fighter!” – Alok Jain, Civic Exchange Fellow

“His capacity to be dropped into any environment and reflect on the most salient issues with an understanding of the downstream impacts was special and unique. His combination of insight relating to economics, sustainability and politics added tremendous value.” – Veronica Booth, former Civic Exchange Senior Project Manager

“Bill has been my most important mentor — his passion for earnest intellectual discussions of public policy has greatly inspired me and, from what I know, many others. He is also a true role model in life, always kind, wise, and extremely courageous in his fight against cancer.” – Penny Liao, Prof. Barron’s former student and Civic Exchange Research Consultant  

“I know Bill as a learned scholar who not only passed on his knowledge on the environment and its economics aspect to students as a teacher traditionally does, but translated his ideals into practice, as an advocate for the improvement of the environment. His book on the environment is designed for the lay public, is easy to read and understand, and represents a bridge between the traditional academic in the ivory tower and public.” – Tze-Wai Wong, Civic Exchange Collaborator and Chinese University of Hong Kong Professor

“As his former student, friend and colleague, Bill was a father figure for me. He always had my best interests in mind when he gave me professional and personal advice. He left an indelible imprint on my thinking in economics, with his iconoclastic and eclectic views of the subject. Most importantly, he taught me the primacy of professional integrity – this has played an important role in key decisions I made in my working life. Bill’s legacy lives on.” – Joseph Liu, Prof Barron’s former student, and Tutor and Faculty Academic Advisor at The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine

“Bill is a great mentor and deep thinker. He has inspired me to study economics and think critically about capitalism, inequality, and sustainability. His support and encouragement has been a driving force in my intellectual pursuit.” – Keith Chan, Prof Barron’s former student

Selected Publications

  • Barron, B., Ng, S.K.W., Loh, C. & Gilbert, R. Sustainable Transport in Hong Kong: Directions and Opportunities, 2002, Civic Exchange & The Asia Foundation
  • Barron, B. et. al. South Western Shoreline Trail, 2003, Civic Exchange
  • Barron, B., Ng, K.W., Ho, B.S. F. & Chan, C. West Island Line/ South Island Line (WIL/SIL): Direct External Benefits, 2004, Centre of Urban Planning & Environmental Management, University of Hong Kong (HKU)
  • Lau, K.H., Wu, W.M., Fung, J. C. H, Henry, R.C. & Barron, B. Significant Marine Source for SO2 Levels in Hong Kong, 2005, Civic Exchange
  • Barron, B., Loh, C. & Uebergang, K. New Policy Direction: Using Cleaner Fuels, 2005, Civic Exchange
  • Barron, B., Ng, S. K. W. & Lin, B. C. Owning up to Responsibility for Manufacturing Contributions to the PRD, 2006, HKUST Institute for the Environment, in cooperation with Civic Exchange
  • Hedley, A., McGhee, S., Wong C.M., Barron B., et. al. Air Pollution: Costs and Paths to a Solution, 2006, HKU, HKUST, Chinese University of Hong Kong & Civic Exchange
  • Barron, B. Sustainable Development in Practice: An Overview, 2007, Civic Exchange & HKUST Institute for the Environment
  • Barron, B. Towards More Sustainable Development: Fundamentals, 2007, HKUST Institute for the Environment & Civic Exchange
  • Barron, B. The Great Disconnect, 2009, Inkstone Books
  • Barron, B., Ng, S., Lin, B. & Gray, J., Natural Gas for Hong Kong’s Heavy Transport: A Technology Application Assessment, 2009, HKUST Institute for the Environment