Orange News: As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to soar to record high levels. This concerning trend will inevitably set back progress towards attaining the 13th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.
The Chinese Central People’s Government’s “3060” target – which involves hitting peak emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 – will position the mainland at the forefront of the global climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts needed to attain the 13th UNSDG. The target will create significant financial opportunities; decarbonisation-related expenditures will create 174.38 trillion RMB of new investment demand from 2020 to 2050. In the context of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), 1.47 trillion RMB of new investment demand will be needed to achieve a carbon peak in 2030.
However, without collaborating with other GBA cities, Hong Kong will struggle to achieve its net-zero goal by 2050, fail to build a climate-proof future and be excluded from the colossal investment opportunities brought by the climate transition.
In a speech celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and the inauguration of the Special Administrative Region’s sixth-term government, President Xi Jinping remarked that “when young people thrive, Hong Kong thrives. When young people grow, Hong Kong grows. When there is a future for young people, there is a future for Hong Kong.” His words demonstrated his sincere care and love for the youth of Hong Kong and outlined his wishes for the participation of Hong Kong’s youth in enabling national development.
The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has laid a strong foundational stone for young people to proactively participate in national development. The Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme is just one example of the developmental opportunities available for young professionals. However, there are notable structural challenges barring young environmental professionals from participating in the GBA’s development, and more broadly, from being part of the solution to the pressing challenges of our generation.
Young professionals currently face an information silo on career advancement and the working environment in the GBA. In the professional sphere, information on job and professional development opportunities are largely inaccessible. Similarly, with a growing emphasis among the youth on a healthy work-life balance, many young professionals in Hong Kong face challenges in learning about lifestyles in other GBA locales, consequently building hesitation to relocate across the GBA.
Limited resources and intra-GBA collaboration also pose additional challenges for youth in the GBA. Despite the necessity of cross-border collaboration in business activities, there are gaps in exchange and collaboration between Hong Kong and other GBA cities that the Hong Kong government must reinforce.
The Hong Kong Government’s “lowest bid wins” tendering practices have particularly created a shortage of resources for young professionals to develop their skills and qualifications. The current high-pressure and tight timeline environment has failed to allow local youth to explore and understand how they can participate in the development of the GBA.
Mobility within the GBA is also a challenge. Despite recent infrastructure upgrades – including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Express Rail Link project – COVID-19 border restrictions have hampered travel between Hong Kong and the rest of the GBA, preventing many young professionals from practising around the region. The Hong Kong Government must proactively facilitate cross-border business activities and intra-regional professional practice opportunities in the GBA.
To address career-related barriers for youth in the GBA, cities in the GBA should strengthen environmental regulations. Currently, corporate compliance with most environmental and energy standards in the GBA is on a voluntary basis. Local governments across the GBA should establish a unified set of statutory regulations on environmental protection and energy use. Such legislation would strengthen the GBA’s growing ESG services sector and encourage young professionals to move across the region to support stakeholders in resolving compliance issues. Stronger environmental regulation would also attract green financing towards initiatives that would mitigate climate change and improve liveability in the GBA.
Additionally, Hong Kong must innovatively contribute to the development of the GBA. Hong Kong solely serves as a financial hub for the region. In contrast, other GBA cities have taken on a diverse range of non-financial responsibilities. For example, Guangzhou is building up a regional STEM education hub, while Macao serves as a foreign policy link between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. Hong Kong should hence explore new avenues of economic development beyond building on current strengths, such as by positioning itself to take a leading role in the global development of green and sustainable finance, Industry 4.0, and Web3.
Furthermore, a public information campaign on the interconnectedness of Hong Kong and the GBA’s climate goals could strengthen regional climate collaboration. Other GBA locales currently contribute to 25% of Hong Kong’s electricity supply and 70% of Hong Kong’s water supply. The development of renewable energy in the region will also be crucial to allow Hong Kong to achieve net-zero.
The Hong Kong Government should therefore help local youth understand that the effects of climate change, such as increasing pollution and rising sea levels, will be shared universally. Such efforts – which could be undertaken with a design thinking approach – will broaden the views of young leaders and enable the generation of holistic and innovative solutions. Relevant programmes could also be implemented in collaboration with other youth outreach initiatives across the GBA.
At this critical juncture in the GBA’s development, the Hong Kong Government has a responsibility to mobilise commerce chambers, business institutes, and other NGOs to craft a social environment where young professionals are incentivised to explore careers in the GBA. Local business interest groups should also create a unified professional recognition scheme across the GBA, especially in the ESG services field.
Beyond collaboration with the business field, the Hong Kong Government should bolster existing initiatives that promote the GBA to local young professionals. In particular, the Government should promote career opportunities and funding avenues in the GBA by enlisting the support of young opinion leaders. Furthermore, existing government-run GBA youth programmes lay a strong foundation for future development. Specifically, the Government should establish high-quality exchange programmes and internship opportunities for young professionals to engage with firms across the GBA, with a focus on bringing the network, experience and learning outcomes that young professionals desire.
With the arrival of a new administration, the Hong Kong Government has an opportunity to develop solutions to achieve President Xi’s vision and address challenges to the GBA’s development. The success of relevant government initiatives relies heavily upon cooperation, engagement, and collaboration with Hong Kong’s youth.
However, in addition to taking advantage of GBA-related opportunities, young professionals also have a responsibility to be self-motivated, open-minded, and well-positioned to capture the exciting opportunities that cross-border economic development will bring. It is with this shared spirit of personal and collective responsibility that the GBA will succeed in its mission to become the world’s premier global business and investment hub.
Originally published on Orange News on 5 Jul 2022. Written by Lawrence Iu.