Excessive use of plastic is often cast as a waste issue that can be solved through recycling. However, globally, only 9 per cent of plastic waste is recycled. Use of degradable plastics will not help in the absence of recovery systems for such plastics in the city.
World Water Day is an occasion to take stock of progress towards the sixth sustainable development goal on ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all. Hong Kong must take its cue from water-stressed nations that have applied sound strategies and technologies to address water scarcity.
The government’s plan for a new drinks carton recycler to be up and running in just a few months is unrealistic. Rather than piecemeal solutions, Hong Kong needs producer responsibility legislation that comes with an initial recycling target rate of 70 per cent.
Despite a change in leadership and putting new policies in place, Hong Kong’s efforts to reduce waste appear to be failing. The municipal solid waste disposal rate is almost double the target set in 2013, and it is too easy for customers to evade the new plastic bag levy.
Turning to the use of coal is not the answer, with the world – Hong Kong included – facing the worrying scenario of sea level rise. Across the city, however, home dwellers, commercial landlords and tenants can do their bit to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.
The policy address should have included measures and incentives to significantly reduce energy consumption in the city. John Lee also missed the opportunity to promote green growth through investment in sustainable energy sources.
With Hong Kong facing mounting environmental threats, there are plenty of tried-and-tested policies that could be easily implemented. But to allow for the development of new and green technologies in the city, the mindset of officials first needs to evolve.
Deadly heatwaves and record temperatures should alert us all to the rising impact of climate change. Unless we are willing to make real changes to our current unsustainable way of life, we can expect hotter temperatures and more extreme climate threats in the future.
For years the government has pursued growth at the expense of sustainability, with environmental policies proving inadequate or painfully slow to materialise. Chief Executive John Lee’s promise of measurable impact means he needs to deliver on key indicators like pollution levels and population figures for endangered species.
Thanks to climate change, Hong Kong on is track to become hotter and dryer in the future, putting our reservoir supplies at risk. Yet instead of doing more to save water, consumption has hit new highs since the start of the pandemic.
As use of plastic dining utensils spiked in 2020 due to Covid-19, recycling rates dropped to their lowest levels since 1997. Given that 7 per cent of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions come from landfills, reducing and recycling waste has to be a priority to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Like many governments post-COP26, Hong Kong is working on phasing out coal. As it waits for green hydrogen and wind farms, a fast and easy way is to legislate for energy efficiency in buildings, which produce 60 per cent of the city’s carbon emissions.
Just launching action plans or road maps is not enough if there are no clear, binding standards to keep the government and major carbon emitters accountable. A regulatory approach would help make climate change pledges stick and aid other goals.
Pro-establishment lawmakers have pushed the government into taking another 18 months to implement the waste charging scheme. Officials claim that order has been restored in Legco, but the system doesn’t seem to be working effectively with regard to environmental goals.
Climate change is all around us, from severe flooding to deadly wildfires. Hong Kong needs to raise energy efficiency standards, decarbonise the economy and promote green investment to get to carbon zero by 2050.
The Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong 2035 will embrace the latest technology and provide the public with easily accessible information. Those executing the plan need clearly defined targets as taking several years to meet lowered expectations is no longer acceptable.
The suggestions in the government’s public consultation will only make the city’s plastic bottle problem worse. Mandatory reduction and recycling targets with meaningful penalties for producers and importers are needed.
The scope of the city’s plan to promote electric vehicles is too narrow, focusing on private vehicles instead of buses and trucks. The Environment Bureau’s failure to recommend a policy direction despite hundreds of trials is deeply disappointing.
The blueprint lacks a timeline that can be tracked, and buried under its apparently laudable goal of a 40-45 per cent reduction in waste is the fact that the new targets are actually less ambitious than the previous ones.
Around the world, countries’ bans on microbeads have triggered companies to remove polluting particles from products. Hong Kong must deploy effective measures against microplastics, given the potential threat they pose to public health.
In 2019, Hong Kong fell short on several key waste reduction targets. The continuing use of disposable face masks, popularity of online shopping and food delivery will only exacerbate the problem.
The chief executive is determined to push ahead with her Lantau Tomorrow Vision as a solution to the housing crisis, but the environmental costs – for both Hong Kong and the mainland – are being glossed over and less ecologically damaging options effaced.
While suppressing the spread of Covid-19 must be a top priority, it would be irresponsible to overlook the environmental crisis which, if not handled intelligently, will exacerbate losses to the economy and livelihoods in Hong Kong.
While private vehicles contribute to congestion, the main polluters are franchised buses, trucks and coaches, which spend more time on the road. Hong Kong should also target zero emissions in shipping, as a holistic approach would help everyone breathe easier.
Environmental issues should not be ignored amid political crisis
If the Hong Kong government genuinely cares about public health, the health and environment ministers should submit a joint proposal to turn the public bus network electric
Hong Kong’s financial secretary has an opportunity to do some real good for the community by using the power of money to drive change.
Recent government efforts to reduce plastic waste do not go far enough. With the mainland’s ban on many types of recyclables going into effect, Hong Kong needs to think about disposing of them without making more waste
Air quality, the need for renewable energy and to reduce our waste are all issues that directly affect Hongkongers’ well-being, and the city cannot afford to delay remedial action.