SCMP: The Council for Sustainable Development has finally published the results of its public engagement on Hong Kong’s long-term decarbonisation strategy, and the suggested action points go a long way towards fulfilling our climate ambitions.
The consultation was launched more than a year ago to guide the Hong Kong government in crafting the city’s climate change blueprint, expected for release in autumn 2021. We appreciate the efforts of the council in completing this important process despite the more than 71,000 responses collated during a period of unprecedented conflict in Hong Kong and then the pandemic.
We hope this will ensure that the government now develops an inclusive long-term policy plan with wide support and which takes into account the views of the public and the business community.
The council’s report rightly places focus on the energy sector, our built environment, transport, green finance and low-carbon lifestyles, and supports furthering research and development.
It also emphasises that Hong Kong must commit to advancing “to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as part of the global effort to limit global average temperature increase to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”, significantly raising our ambitions from the Paris Agreement’s goal of collectively limiting global warming to 2 degrees by 2100.
And indeed, energy, transport and the built environment are the largest contributors to Hong Kong’s direct greenhouse gas emissions, and they should be key target sectors for decarbonisation.
But beyond the council’s recommendations, we believe it is important to consider further action in these sectors.
For electricity generation, annual reports on renewable energy generation and up-to-date forecasts and potential analysis should be produced.
In terms of building energy efficiency, the council’s report fully reflects the importance of performance tracking and auditing, benchmarking, leaner construction practices and support for retrofitting as crucial components of the building sector addressing greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, Civic Exchange and the HK 2050 is Now initiative believe that demand-side management of energy consumption, including behavioural changes, should be further explored.
The council’s report principally aligns with the recommendations in our June report, “Pathways to Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050” of a three-pronged “avoid-shift-improve” strategy for the city’s transport sector. But we note that vital measures to relieve traffic congestion, namely restricting car ownership and piloting electronic road pricing schemes, are listed as considerations over a far too long, 10-year time frame.
To progress towards a net zero emissions future is a challenge, but attainable. A decarbonised city will be people-centric, more liveable, healthier and economically successful.
Lawrence Iu and Dr Berto Lee, HK 2050 is Now initiative and Civic Exchange
Originally published on SCMP on November 23rd, 2020