SCMP: In her 2021 policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reaffirmed the city’s commitment to a 2050 decarbonisation target that was announced last year. She introduced key initiatives in this speech, including the creation of an Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality under the Environment Bureau.
One key miss in the speech, however, was a new interim target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent before 2035 over 2005 levels. That midterm target does not respond adequately to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s call in 2018 for reductions in global emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030.
Hong Kong must follow the science and bring forward its 50 per cent reduction target to 2030. The difference of five years is significant, and delays will have irreversible consequences for environmental and human health.
How can this be achieved? If the government disrupts “business as usual” power systems with low-carbon energy sources, it can fast-track decarbonisation without sacrificing energy security.
In “Powering a Carbon-Free Hong Kong” – a recent report from independent think tank Civic Exchange and global research group World Resources Institute – researchers found that a decarbonised power system with a high ratio of imported nuclear energy could have economic advantages. This would allow us to reduce power system emissions by more than 50 per cent before 2030.
To achieve this, the Hong Kong government and the two local power companies should immediately begin negotiations on joint venture investment agreements with mainland counterparts to secure stable, adequate and decarbonised energy for the city.
We are seeing encouraging moves from Hong Kong’s private sector. In April, Link Asset Management announced a net-zero strategy by 2035, including a 30 per cent reduction in electricity usage across the portfolio. Swire also committed to a 50 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target by 2030 compared with a 2018 baseline from direct operations.
Both companies’ commitments are beyond Hong Kong’s latest interim targets. The government should take the existing corporate targets as references for the city so we can align with global scientific consensus.
Hong Kong is ready to advance our decarbonisation goals. It is encouraging to see the city taking action in this regard. Let’s make sure we act immediately, with greater ambition and according to science.
Without Hong Kong taking a coordinated approach alongside global action, limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees will be beyond our reach. That will mean more heatwaves, storm surges and extreme weather that will challenge public health, our nature and our economy.
Originally published on SCMP on 19 Oct 2021. Written by Lawrence Iu.