Climate change is now affecting every corner of the Earth. Like other coastal cities, Hong Kong faces multiple climate-related threats, including rising temperatures and more extreme weather phenonmena. Unless the world takes bolder and quicker actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the impacts will intensify and take place at an even more rapid pace in the coming decades.
In 2015, 196 signatories adopted the historic Paris Agreement. It is a multilateral treaty for combating climate change with ambitious goals for building up a low-carbon, resilient and sustainable future. All signatories of the Agreement are committed to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. As the Paris Agreement applies to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, it is our obligation to formulate the long-term decarbonisation strategy up to 2050 by 2020, and review our climate change efforts every 5 years.
It is worth noting that the world will need to reduce absolute carbon emissions by between 40% and 70% by 2050 compared with 2010, and to achieve net zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs before 2100 in order to meet the well below 2°C target. The recent Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has provided scientific evidence that limiting warming to 1.5°C could further reduce climate risks compared with limiting it to 2°C. Yet, it is already an audacious plan to limit global warming to 2°C. To go further beyond to 1.5°C will require global carbon emissions reaching net zero around 2050 which will be even more challenging. Against this background, we must explore ways for Hong Kong to set an aspirational yet achievable strategies for meeting a deeper decarbonisation target, and mobilise stronger and timely climate mitigation actions across different sectors of society.
To adequately address the climate crisis, we must urgently reduce our carbon emissions. It requires cross-sector collaborative actions on lifestyle/consumption, buildings, transport, energy, water and waste systems, etc. with intensive participation of the community, the business sector and the Government. Many cities and countries are exploring various ways to reduce their carbon emissions focusing on several key areas: enhancing education and publicity, enhancing building energy efficiency, deep decarbonisation in the energy sector and promoting green transport, as well as other measures such as industrial upgrading, better waste management, and adoption of carbon removal measures. Another global trend is to explore different financing mechanisms, such as issuance of green bonds and setting of carbon pricing, to channel private sector investment into projects and activities that contribute to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.
We need all members of society to step up efforts by implementing a host of measures, including adopting a low-carbon lifestyle, enhancing energy efficiency in buildings, using more zero carbon fuel sources for electricity generation, and developing an efficient and environmental-friendly public transportation system to further reduce carbon emissions. In this regard, the public engagement document has set out three key broad areas for active public discussion:
- Are you aware of the relationship between your daily activities and carbon emissions? How can we facilitate you to have a better grasp of the related information?
- What can help you switch to a low-carbon lifestyle? How can goods and services providers facilitate your behavioural change?
- What are the obstacles for you to switch to a low-carbon lifestyle?
- What kinds of education and publicity activities should be put forward in promoting low-carbon lifestyle?
Building is one of the main sources of carbon emission in Hong Kong. What can we do further to promote energy saving and reduce building-related carbon emissions?
- What measures may be considered to encourage or regulate building owners and tenants to raise energy efficiency of the whole buildings (i.e. including non-communal units/ areas)?
- What measures may be considered to encourage building owners to develop more on-site renewable energy installations?
- What passive energy-saving design elements (e.g. natural ventilation) may be considered to enhance building energy efficiency in the long run? What incentives should be provided to further encourage developers and owners to adopt passive energy-saving design elements?
- Fossil or non-fossil fuels, what will you choose? For the benefits of both the current and future generations, what are your considerations in deciding the future fuel mix for Hong Kong?
- What can we do to further enhance the development of renewable energy locally?
- Further enhancement of regional cooperation for increasing the proportion of zero carbon energy in our fuel mix is an inevitable step towards achieving higher carbon reduction targets in 2030 and 2050. What are your views on this in the face of the threat of climate change?
- How would you rank the importance of different considerations (including reliability, security and availability, affordability, and environmental performance and response to climate change, etc.) when considering the long-term strategy to decarbonise the electricity generating sector towards 2050 for Hong Kong?
- How to promote wider use of green and innovative transport technologies?
- What other measures would you suggest to further reduce our transport-related carbon emissions? For example, would you walk for short-distance commuting instead of travelling by vehicle and replace face-to-face meetings with video conferencing?
Through this public engagement (PE) process, the Council for Sustainable Development (SDC) hopes to arouse public awareness of the impact of carbon emissions, and gauge the views of the community in developing feasible strategies and measures for carbon reduction. Given the long-term low GHG emissions development strategies envisaged under the Paris Agreement only covers mitigation measures, this PE exercise will focus on gauging public views on mitigation actions with due consideration of the geographical, social and economic contexts of Hong Kong.
The SDC sincerely invites you to send us your views on key issues related to the formulation of the long-term decarbonisation strategy for Hong Kong. Please complete and return the views collection form in Chapter 4 on or before 20 September 2019. You are also invited to participate in our public interaction activities. Details of the activities are available at the SDC’s dedicated website www.susdev.org.hk. For further information, please call the Public Engagement Hotline: 3917 4763.