Carrie Lam’s toilet paper trip prompts carbon emissions questions to environment secretary

Wong Kam-sing asked about the carbon footprint of taxi trips after chief executive contender revealed she had to take a midnight journey back to her official residence as she had run out of toilet paper

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 1:30pm

What’s the carbon footprint of taking a taxi from Wan Chai to the Peak in the middle of the night?

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing didn’t have a straight answer. He was asked the tongue-in-cheek question after a radio interview on Monday, a day after chief executive contender and ex-No 2 official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made the bizarre revelation that she had to make a midnight run back from a serviced apartment to her official residence for “toilet paper”.

Asked whether taking taxis would increase the city’s carbon footprint an amused Wong responded: “I believe it’s not appropriate for me to comment on certain chief executive candidate’s certain [habits]. But I think in our daily lives, a low carbon lifestyle is important.”

Hoping to switch the conservation back to the climate report released by the Environment Bureau last Friday, he went on to say: “We should look at the main point, which is electricity generation and consumption, which are the biggest components of our carbon footprint. So everyone whether at home or at the office, should keep reducing electricity use and reduce carbon in focus.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Lam said she had moved to a Wan Chai unit from her Barker Road residence – but said she found at midnight it had no toilet paper. “When I went to a nearby convenience store, I realised that they didn’t sell toilet paper ... so I had to return to my official residence,” she said.

Carrie Lam could face crisis if she wins CE race only with help of pro-Beijing camp, rival Regina Ip says

It was just one of several cited struggles the career civil servant seems to have had while adapting to regular civilian life. Last week, Lam went to the wrong funeral parlour in an attempt to pay her respects to the renowned soprano Barbara Fei Ming-yi. She also appeared unfamiliar with how to use an Octopus card as she took the MTR to visit Ap Lei Chau.

While Wong couldn’t answer for Lam, he did stress the importance for the city to adopt a low-carbon lifestyle, in line with the city’s new carbon emission reduction targets for 2030.

Unveiled on Friday, the government’s new Climate Action Plan 2030+ report aims to cut carbon intensity by 2030 by 65 to 70 per cent from 2005 levels. This will translate to an absolute emissions reduction of 26 to 36 per cent and per capita emissions cut of 3.3 and 3.8 tonnes from the current level of 6.2. Wong said it was necessary to “concentrate firepower” on tackling emissions in the electricity generation sector, which accounts for most of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, followed closely by the transport sector.

Coal-fired generation would be slashed from about half of the fuel mix to 20 per cent by 2020 as they are replaced by more relatively cleaner gas-fired power plants. He stressed that for the first time the government had been able to calculate Hong Kong’s realisable potential for renewable energy up to 2030, which was about 3 to 4 per cent.

“We will work hard to – in a city with a lot more limitations such as limited land and a large population – to development more solar, wind and waste-to-energy,” he said on a radio programme. But he added: “The costs will be higher than burning coal and natural gas and this is something that people should understand. There is no free lunch.”