Loh defends Hong Kong over downgrade in UN ranking

Perhaps they overlooked we're part of China, says environment undersecretary after city downgraded to No 40 in global energy index

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 5:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 1:59pm

The environment undersecretary has defended Hong Kong following its downgrading in an energy index compiled by a United Nations-accredited body, saying the score does not fully take into account the city's unique situation.

The annual World Energy Council index ranked Hong Kong 40th among 129 nations and regions, two places lower than last year, based on its ability to balance the "energy trilemma" of security, equity and environmental sustainability.

Hong Kong's ranking was dragged down by concerns over the security of its energy supply - given its heavy reliance on fossil fuels - and its economic stability.

But Christine Loh Kung-wai said the compilers had failed to note that Hong Kong obtained nuclear power and gas from the nation it was part of, making its supply "very secure". She also disputed the assessment of the local economy.

She said: "Our energy supply is not as insecure as claimed. Perhaps when they look at Hong Kong they overlook its relationship with China," she said.

She added: "Our macro[economic] environment might have actually improved - and compared to the top five in the index, ours might seem much better."

The "trilemma" goals account for 75 per cent of the ranking and the economy, political and social context 25 per cent.

Hong Kong scored A for equity, B for the environment and D - the lowest - for security. Its economic ranking plunged from first last year to 15th.

The top five - Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Britain - scored A for all three goals. Asian regions with a higher ranking than Hong Kong are Japan (16), Taiwan (27) and Malaysia (37).

Loh attended the World Energy Congress in Daegu, South Korea, where the index was announced this week. She said it was an "interesting exercise" and a useful "assessment by an independent body", but wanted to learn more about the assumptions behind it.

The index, she added, was not a race against other jurisdictions but a challenge for the city itself. It would spur the government to promote joint dialogue among different departments with influence on energy issues, such as transport and development.

Joan MacNaughton, executive chairwoman of the council's World Energy Trilemma division, said the city's ranking simply reflected what areas policymakers had to pay attention to and Hong Kong still performed well.

"The ranking itself is not the most important message; the most important is what do you do that works well and not so well and what does the government need to focus on in the future to make good progress towards the three goals," she said.

On Hong Kong's energy imports from the mainland, she said the more diversified the energy supply the better as far as ranking was concerned.

Energy resources were not a defining factor, she said, as some places with rich resources did not perform well, in contrast to some with no resources.

"So, at the end, it is all policy, policy and policy," she said.

Asked if the political system had any bearing on the ability to come up with a sound policy, MacNaughton said there was no apparent link between the type of political system and energy policy. But all the top-ranking countries had a "strong tradition of consultation and transparency in policymaking", she added.