Orange News: The Finance secretary published the Hong Kong SAR Government’s 2022-2023 Budget. The budget indicated the Government’s commitment to build a liveable city, propel Hong Kong towards our 2050 carbon neutrality target, and promote a green transformation of our economy.
Fighting the COVID-19 epidemic is Hong Kong’s current overriding mission. We appreciate the budgetary measures taken by the Government to protect public health, stabilise the economy, and improve people’s livelihoods. However, COVID-19 is not our only challenge. In the long run, climate change could cause devastating impacts to our financial assets, livelihoods, and urban environment, which could surpass the disruptions brought by COVID-19.
We hence welcome the Financial Secretary’s affirmation of Hong Kong’s 2050 carbon neutrality target and the Budget’s emphasis on building a green and liveable city. Hong Kong’s post-epidemic recovery should integrate the principles of sustainable development to improve the resilience and wellbeing of the community in the face of the long-term challenge posed by the climate crisis.
We would specifically like to address four key points raised in the Budget and offer our recommendations to amplify the impact of the Financial Secretary’s commitments.
Transportation: The Traffic and Transport Strategy is strongly welcomed. Moving forward, the Government should upgrade Hong Kong’s road transport infrastructure, as well as lead innovation towards a zero-emission mobility sector.
We welcome the launch of the Traffic and Transport Strategy by the Transport Department, we hope the strategy will lay out a holistic vision and strategic blueprint for Hong Kong’s traffic and transport policies until 2050. To ensure that Hong Kong can build a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly and efficient public transport system for encouraging modal shift, we recommend the Government to upgrade urban planning strategy and road transport infrastructure to complement railway development strategy. To improve public transport passenger experience, we suggest city-wide adoption of best-in-class initiatives from other leading international cities, including road congestion charging and installing bus priority lanes in tunnels and along heavily congested corridors.
We further applaud the establishment of the $5 billion Strategic Tech Fund to enrich the innovation and technology ecosystem in Hong Kong. We observe a huge opportunity for this fund to contribute to emissions reductions from road transport and aviation sectors, such as through investments in the accelerated deployment of biodiesel, waste-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and hydrogen. These promising innovations address hard-to-abate carbon emissions that align with Hong Kong’s 2050 carbon neutrality target, as well as China’s 14th Five-year Special Development Plan.
Green technology development: The Strategic Tech Fund and Green Tech Fund are strong measures to push forward decarbonisation in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area (GBA). Funding should be directed to innovation, infrastructure development, and trials of new technologies.
We welcome the injection of $200 million into the Green Tech Fund towards the promotion of decarbonisation and environmental protection in Hong Kong. The Government should utilise the Fund to establish public-private partnerships, lead large-scale technology trials, and develop supporting infrastructure for society-wide decarbonisation.
Green finance: Greater issuance of green finance products can help Hong Kong become a green finance hub in the GBA. Hong Kong’s leadership can be bolstered through proactive development of transition finance and regulatory standards.
We appreciate the Government’s commitments to develop Hong Kong as a hub for green finance in the Greater Bay Area and beyond through expanding the issuance of green bonds, promoting talent development, as well as by deepening and widening access to the Mainland. These developments work towards achieving the central government’s vision for Hong Kong to become a green finance centre in the GBA, in accordance with the 14th Five Year Plan. The $5 billion GBA Investment Fund will support companies in Hong Kong to seize opportunities for green leadership in the region. Aside from green financial products, the Government should encourage the issuance of transition instruments to align hard-to-abate sectors with net zero pathways.
Hong Kong should also actively participate in the development of taxonomies and disclosure standards to heighten the credibility of the climate transition. To guide investment flows towards green outcomes, the Government should mandate greater data transparency and support disclosure in aspects such as building energy efficiency.
Climate resilience: New measures to improve coastal management will aid Hong Kong in developing stronger climate resilience. Climate change needs to be a key factor in government planning, particularly when developing measures to boost housing supply. Moreover, planning should made more transparent and inclusive.
We value the Government’s commitment to enhance the capability of low-lying areas to withstand rising sea level and storm surges brought on by climate change. We look forward to improved coastal management and heightened flood control capability for greater protection of low-lying areas. We urge the Government to integrate climate change considerations into its the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy and Lantau Tomorrow Vision.
As Hong Kong gradually recovers from the COVID-19 epidemic, we should focus on measures that bring us closer to carbon neutrality. These measures are not mutually exclusive with economic development—through a green recovery, Hong Kong can achieve sustained growth, maintain its status as an international financial centre, become more liveable, and develop resilience. Decarbonisation can create promising prospects for our community.
Originally published on Orange News on 23 Feb 2022. Written by Lawrence Iu.