The government should take a bigger role in planning for green transport and assessing the impact of housing plans in rural areas if the city is to achieve its vision of a green metropolis.
This was the call from speakers at the Redefining Hong Kong debate hosted by the South China Morning Post as part of its Celebrating Hong Kong campaign to mark the paper's 110th anniversary.
The conference, Towards a Green Metropolis - Vision of Asia's Most Liveable City, attracted about 150 guests from various sectors. Continuing the debate on the notion of allowing development in country parks, Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman said the real threat to the parks was poorly planned small-house development.
"I don't mind changing the park boundaries as it is a fair issue to be looked at," he said. But the government should stop the rampant and uncoordinated development of village houses, Zimmerman added.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the small-house issue was a challenging question that would take time to tackle.
Wong said the city had to set out a short- and long-term housing strategy to cope with public demand but he would not lose sight of preserving the city's precious natural environment and biodiversity. "We do have certain bottom lines to keep," he said.
Dr Hung Wing-tat, associate professor in Polytechnic University's civil and structural engineering department, said the government should take the lead in drawing up a long-term plan for electrifying transport.
He said there were pressing issues to address such as adapting to different charging standards for electric vehicles. "We need a real drive from the government and what we do need now is a road map," he said.
Conrad Wong Tin-cheung, vice-chairman of Yau Lee Holdings and chairman of the Green Building Council, shared his vision of cutting the energy consumption of all buildings by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
He described the target as the "most ambitious in the world" but he believed it could be done with a change in both mindset and adoption of readily available technology.
"Green is not a cost but an investment," he said, citing one of his green hotel projects in Hong Kong that he said could break even within four years.