Orange News: First and foremost, I would like to offer my congratulations to Chief Executive-elect John Lee and welcome his new administration, now that the Legislative Council has passed the government restructuring plan and the Central People’s Government has approved the new cabinet. The new cabinet consists of seasoned officials with pertinent experience and a strong network in the GBA that will be able to spearhead Hong Kong into a sustainable future. These new developments exhibit that the Chief Executive-elect has a strong vision and the determination to make a greener, healthier and prosperous future for Hong Kong.
The arrival of a new administration presents an opportunity to further reinforce and develop the policies and targets set forth in Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 to address the current climate crisis. Hong Kong must align its policies with the Central People’s Government’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which highlights a commitment to prioritising climate action. The new cabinet should consider the climate obligations set in the 14th Five-Year Plan as part of Hong Kong’s growth strategy.
Tackling climate change requires a holistic and systemic approach. Given that the majority of Hong Kong’s emissions are from the sectors of energy, buildings and transport, a targeted response in these areas is essential to achieving net-zero emissions. The new administration should increase transparency on energy usage and implement more aggressive science-based energy-efficient targets across various sectors.
Ongoing urban renewal and new town development projects, such as the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, have created opportunities to build green buildings and transform Hong Kong into a sustainable city. Increased transparency is one of the most important initiatives to help Hong Kong meet its climate targets, particularly in improving energy efficiency in buildings. The disclosure of energy consumption can encourage both businesses and individuals to proactively improve their energy performance. The new cabinet should consider developing a consistent building energy rating system, which would allow for the standardisation of results from various building projects to be compared.
Additionally, there is currently little information on embodied energy, which is generated during manufacturing processes. The new cabinet should employ a systematic method of measuring embodied carbon in new buildings. To facilitate the development of future green buildings, a government-regulated database monitoring building performance could be launched to ensure that sustainability targets are met. This will facilitate the development of future green buildings. Combined, the aforementioned measures will position Hong Kong for a carbon-neutral future and advance Chinese and global climate-related targets.
Furthermore, a progressive tariff system based on the capabilities and income levels of different demographics can reduce energy usage and alleviate undue burdens on the neediest in society. It is also important for energy-efficient technology to be implemented in households and commercial buildings so that overall carbon emissions are minimised. The benefits of implementing energy-efficient and cleaner infrastructure across society will make the climate transition feasible and progress Hong Kong’s net-zero ambitions.
Hong Kong’s role as a Greater Bay Area (GBA) and global financial hub creates prime opportunities for the development of the sustainable finance industry. The Hong Kong Government has been a regional leader in the issuance of green, sustainable, and transition financial instruments with its Green Bond Programme. The incoming administration should further encourage the issuance of such instruments to ensure sufficient financing for climate-related innovation and sustainable development. Hong Kong could also strengthen its leadership by establishing clear local standards for green finance projects, while also continually monitoring global regulatory activities.
The development of the GBA further opens up new opportunities for the creation of regional carbon trading markets, in which Hong Kong could act as a crucial link between Chinese and international participants. With the recent growth in the green finance market, these policies would enable Hong Kong to maintain its position as a highly competitive global financial centre.
Despite being a global leader in public transport, with 90% of commuters making use of public transport daily, Hong Kong still has much room for growth in the decarbonisation of mobility. The Hong Kong Government should engage local and international experts to collaborate on a comprehensive transport strategy for Hong Kong that includes a proper hierarchy of movement and network interfacing between different modes of public transportation.
Hong Kong should also consider adopting an ‘Avoid’, ‘Shift’, and ‘Improve’ model of transportation policy. Specifically, the Government may seek to encourage residents to ‘avoid’ journeys by encouraging transit-oriented development and the use of active transport methods such as walking and biking. The Government could also ‘shift’ journeys from private to public transit by levying higher taxes on private vehicle use and enhancing public transportation offerings. Additionally, efforts must be made to ‘improve’ the sustainability of Hong Kong’s vehicle fleet, such as by adopting more electric vehicles, improving relevant infrastructure, and funding innovation toward new vehicular technologies. The Government should also revise targets to cease the importation of combustion-engine vehicles by 2032. The achievement of these policy proposals would ensure that Hong Kong’s transportation system is aligned with the Government’s previously outlined net-zero targets.
Overall, these combined proposals allow for Hong Kong to be better aligned with international, national and local climate targets. I have confidence that the new administration shares our vision for Hong Kong as a resilient, people-centric, and liveable city. By establishing a robust ecosystem for green finance, promoting green innovation and technology, and leveraging professional expertise across sectors, Hong Kong will solicit increased investments and improve its competitiveness in a carbon-neutral future. Through a holistic climate action plan, we can build a more sustainable and equitable future for Hong Kong.
Originally published on Orange News on 23 Jun 2022. Written by Lawrence Iu.