Paris climate summit 2015

Hongkongers need to switch on to the fact their energy-wasting habits are causing climate change

Edwin Lau says individuals in Hong Kong need to be better educated if they are realise their actions contribute to global warming

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 November, 2015, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 November, 2015, 2:48pm

Later this month, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing will attend the UN Climate Summit in Paris to present the government’s proposed measures for minimising carbon emissions as part of Hong Kong’s global responsibility to alleviate climate change.

From my interactions with various sectors of society on green issues over the past 26 years, I can say that most Hongkongers do not take climate change seriously. They do not even see it as related to their own energy-wasting behaviour such as setting the default temperature of their office to below 20 degrees Celsius.

So, even if our government manages to implement all the measures in its energy saving plan 2015-25, without the majority of the population waking up to the challenge and changing their behaviour, it will be virtually impossible to fulfil our environmental responsibilities.

A US research group, Climate Central, recently released its findings on sea level rise. Hong Kong is among the 10 cities with the largest population that could be affected by flooding. It also predicted that even if the temperature rises by just 2 degrees, many coastal areas of our city will be affected.

In my experience, with proper training and continuous monitoring, workplaces can become energy efficient

According to government data, power generation is responsible for 68 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. So, until every citizen uses less electricity, we will not be able to address the core climate challenge, even if the government requires power companies to replace coal with low-carbon fuels.

Many who seek lower electricity consumption in their workplace experience resistance from colleagues. In my experience, with proper training and continuous monitoring, workplaces can become energy efficient.

I believe that once people understand how much electricity their premises use, they will act to minimise energy wastage. In September, real-time energy monitors were installed in 50 schools to enable administrators to understand the hourly power consumption. The schools were then provided with a chart showing the highest and the lowest weekly power consumption. Once such information was available, administrators began to seek ways to cut their energy wastage and save money.

CLP Power has an online meter service which can help larger customers understand their hourly usage and so better manage their power consumption. However, schools and smaller organisations are not a priority for the service. Without such data, it is harder for them to cut their energy wastage even though school principals want to use energy wisely to help tackle climate change.

In my view, three measures are essential if Hong Kong is to become an energy-efficient city.

First, the two power companies must make their online meter service available to schools and other small enterprises.

Second, they and/or the government should subsidise the installation of smart meters.

And third, the government must launch a comprehensive “switch off for climate” education campaign to convert all Hong Kong residents from energy wasters to energy savers.

Edwin Lau Che-feng is a veteran environmentalist