ENVIRONMENT

Firms take dim view of energy costs pushed up by climate change: poll

The resulting higher cost of energy worries firms, though many are willing to pay to ditch coal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 8:11am

A growing number of companies see the rising power costs and scarce environmental resources associated with climate change as their biggest concerns, a business survey shows.

But three-quarters of the 300 firms polled say they are willing to pay more if it means coal is replaced with cleaner fuel sources.

The findings reflected a trend of greater corporate responsibility and a recognition that tackling climate change could reduce the chances of tighter environmental rules, said Mike Kilburn, a committee member of the Climate Change Business Forum Advisory Group under the Business Environment Council, which commissioned the poll.

"About 90 per cent of the companies surveyed say they are acting on climate change," he said. "This would include introducing new technology, altering their business practices, reducing energy consumption and setting energy or carbon targets."

He said the Hong Kong stock exchange's push for environmental, social and governance reporting requirements played an important role in the drive.

In the council's fourth annual poll, held in August and September, 92 per cent of the companies voiced concern about rising fuel and electricity costs as a result of climate change, up from 79 per cent last year.

Concerns over the scarcity of clean air, water and other resources also rose, from 78 per cent to 92 per cent. Safety fears meant only 41 per cent backed a higher share of nuclear power in the city's mix of fuel sources.

The government is consulting the public over two ideas on formulating the future energy mix.

One option entails importing 30 per cent of electricity needs from the mainland grid, while the other stresses raising domestic use of natural gas to 60 per cent.

Undersecretary for the environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said the city was on track to meet its carbon reduction targets of 50 to 60 per cent set for 2020, regardless of the option adopted.

She urged people to consider energy policy objectives - safety, cost, reliability and environmental performance - and how each option would affect the market post-2018, when a pact with the city's two power suppliers ends. Environment officials have said both options will be more expensive, without elaborating.

In the absence of cost estimates, many firms could not use the criterion of affordability to choose between the two, the council's policy and research director Hendrik Rosenthal said.

The poll reflected business concerns about the scant details from the government. "[Companies] cite lack of information and public disgust [with] government as major obstacles to creating public buy-in for changing the fuel mix," the survey read.