City told to grab environmental bull by horns Hong Kong will become an environmental-technology backwater if it fails to capitalise on opportunities presented by the mainland's efforts to clean up its environmental act, according to one Beijing loyalist. At the same time, local companies that do get involved could clean up financially as well, said Lau Nai-keung, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, and environmental activists. Mr Lau warned that Hong Kong risked becoming marginalised through a lack of leadership on the environment. Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang had made it clear that cleaning up the province while transforming it into a centre for service industries was one of his main priorities. 'Any transformation or progress in Guangdong should include Hong Kong,' Mr Lau said. 'The central government has set targets, but no one is meeting them yet, and there is tremendous pressure to do so. Wang Yang wants to get ahead, so he really wants success with this.' With its international connections and experience in creating infrastructure, Hong Kong was ideally placed to benefit from the opportunities, he said. 'We are entrepreneurial, so we should grab this chance to get ahead,' Mr Lau said. 'The opportunity is right in front of us. This is only the beginning, and if we wait for it to get big, it will be too late. 'We do not have a sense of urgency here. We don't have the siege mentality that the rest of the mainland has about its environmental problems.' Mr Lau said he believed the drive for environmental entrepreneurialism would have to come from within society and the business community because official policymakers were too conservative. That was a view echoed by Christine Loh Kung-wai, chairwoman of the Civic Exchange think-tank. Developing a low-carbon, resource-efficient industrial base for Guangdong was a natural step in the southern mainland's economic evolution, and such a transformation provided massive opportunity for Hong Kong, she said. 'I believe business can start doing things right now,' Ms Loh said. 'We already have companies looking at how they can improve their energy efficiency and generate carbon credits, for instance.' While there was no rigid set of guidelines coming from Beijing, momentum was building for the growth of environmental technologies across the border. 'They have already put it out there that these are the desired outcomes that they want to see,' Ms Loh said. 'The message really is, 'You folks in the south, go and work something out.'' John Ashton, the British foreign secretary's special representative for climate change and a former adviser to the last governor of Hong Kong before he began a career in environmental diplomacy, visited the city recently to talk to government and business leaders about China's strategy for tackling climate change. 'It is still early days, but you can make a pretty cogent argument that if we succeed with this stuff over the next 20 years, China might actually be ahead of other economies ... because it can see the opportunity inherent in it, rather than just agonising over the cost. 'This is going to be the mother of all transformations, and it really is beginning to happen.'