Pollution, food waste and heavy traffic: what Hong Kong’s chief executive should focus on in 2016

Edwin Lau says Hongkongers shouldn’t hesitate to let Leung Chun-ying know what he can do to make Hong Kong a more liveable place

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2015, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 2015, 4:36pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s invitation to the public to contribute their views to his preparation for the upcoming policy address is a wonderful opportunity to suggest ways to make Hong Kong more liveable.

READ MORE: How China, the ‘world’s largest polluter’, is taking on climate change

Climate change is a pressing global challenge. At the UN climate summit in Paris, 20 countries including China and the US launched the Mission Innovation initiative with a collective commitment of US$20 billion to accelerate global clean energy innovation. So how much will the Leung administration commit to the climate challenge?

Here are some suggestions of what we can do:

Vegetation targets. Hong Kong is fortunate to have a natural carbon sink in our country parks, as long as we don’t allow housing development to encroach on them. We should set targets for vegetation coverage in the country parks and throughout the city.

Des Voeux Road Central. To improve air quality, congested Des Voeux Road Central should be turned into a vehicle-free zone, with water features to mitigate the concrete-jungle feel. This would persuade people to walk or take public transport, which is good for public health. Leung should learn from the South Korean government, which removed an elevated highway in Seoul’s city centre to revitalise the Cheonggyecheon stream, now an urban park.

READ MORE: Hong Kong’s waste problem: a stinking trail of missed targets, data errors and misdirected efforts

Food waste. More than 3,600 tonnes of food waste is created daily in Hong Kong. Although our government plans to build three organic waste treatment facilities between 2016 and 2021, the total daily capacity they can handle is only 800 tonnes, or 22 per cent of our food waste.

Hong Kong still does not have a waste charging law. If food waste recycling was made mandatory, all private food waste recyclers would operate round the clock to help achieve the government target of reducing food waste disposal at landfills by 40 per cent by 2022.

Energy efficiency. Publicising the energy utilisation index of all buildings would be a cost-effective way to encourage these buildings, through peer pressure, to improve their energy efficiency. Currently, the law requires only commercial buildings to declare their index, whereas government buildings are exempted.

Energy savings. There should be a government-led programme for generating “negawatts” – energy saved instead of consumed, which is the cleanest energy of all. If Hong Kong’s 7 million residents each generate just one “negawatt” a day, Hong Kong would save 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The question is, will Leung take the lead and implement these suggestions?

Edwin Lau Che-feng is a veteran environmentalist