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Paris climate summit 2015

In global fight to slow climate change, Hong Kong is proving to be a laggard

Wendell Chan says that, set against the efforts of other cities to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy, ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris, Hong Kong is barely doing enough

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 2:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 November, 2015, 2:47pm

This week, delegates representing countries from all over the world will convene in Paris to decide whether we will head towards a low-carbon future. The goal is to reach a legally binding pact to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

READ MORE: A climate for change: how China went from zero to hero in fight against global warming in just 6 years

Countries in a position to do so have submitted their emission reduction targets to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As of writing, it had received 128 submissions representing 155 countries.

Hong Kong is a services-based economy. To use intensity as an indicator intended for industrial-based economies is inappropriate for a place that prides itself as ‘Asia’s world city’

Unfortunately, these pledges are far from sufficient to achieve the 2-degree target, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent science-based assessment of policies and actions.

Hong Kong, for its part, published its Climate Change Report 2015 this month, detailing various targets to achieve, including a 50-60 per cent reduction in carbon intensity from 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon intensity is emissions measured against our gross domestic product and is useful to determine how clean our economy is. However, Hong Kong is a services-based economy. To use intensity as an indicator intended for industrial-based economies is inappropriate for a place that prides itself as “Asia’s world city”.

The report also includes pledges to improve the fuel mix for power generation; better building energy efficiency; turning waste into energy; encourage green transport and urban greening. However, such measures lag far behind those of many other cities.

Electricity generation accounted for about 70 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong in 2012. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy would be one of the most effective ways to reduce our emissions. Many cities and countries have already set ambitious targets for renewable energy development. Sadly, our government plans to supply only 1 per cent of our electricity demand through waste-to-energy efforts.

READ MORE: Progress on climate change beckons in Paris

The Paris conference has some suggestions on how subnational governments, like Hong Kong’s, can participate in a credible transition towards a low-carbon society. Specifically, the objectives should contain verifiable greenhouse gas reduction targets and targets to improve energy efficiency.

More than 6,000 European cities, provinces and regions have already pledged to exceed the 20 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target by 2020. Seventeen international cities, including New York and Copenhagen, have committed to an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. Vancouver has targeted using 100 per cent renewable energy. The question for us is, exactly how will Hong Kong contribute?

Wendell Chan is project officer at Friends of the Earth (HK)