Climate change

Soaring heat, choking pollution: Hong Kong’s citizens and leaders cannot ignore climate change

Yvonne Lui says we all have a duty to protect the planet, and lessons from Iceland and mainland China can be applied to develop a renewable energy plan for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 11:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 7:09pm

Climate change is often overlooked in Hong Kong. We don’t suffer the extreme weather many other countries face and natural disasters are limited to the occasional blustery typhoon.

But we are not immune. Hong Kong has seen one of its warmest ever starts to the year and we don’t need record books to tell us this. The heat, the pollution, the suffocating air that we breathe is all down to our own making. Media reports on March 1 showed Central district recording an air quality index of 190 – several times worse than in Beijing.

As a mother and a board member of Conservation International, it is an issue I can no longer ignore.

I have made lifestyle changes by recycling, plus conserving water and energy. However, this is not enough. It takes the effort of a large group of individuals with the support of government and policymakers to deliver real impact.

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I hope Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will help raise awareness of the environmental challenge. We need to educate everyone to recognise the issue and make lifestyle and household changes to protect our planet. Simple things such as extending the plastic bag levy scheme to include plastic cups, plates and cutlery or encouraging Hongkongers to take public transport will make a huge long-term difference.

The government can do more to develop alternative energy solutions. Today, about 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy comes from coal and natural gas. During a visit to Iceland, I learned that its electricity supply is generated purely by renewable energy. Former president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson made this possible by investing in renewable energy during his time in office.

Earlier this year, President Xi Jinping announced the world’s biggest investment in clean energy. In June, Qinghai ran a week-long trial to generate electricity only from renewables. The results showed it was possible. Why can’t that day come soon for Hong Kong?

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A report by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department estimated that solar power alone could generate 17 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy use.

Imagine if other sources of renewable energy were added. The government should support scientists’ research and devise an economically viable, sustainable strategic renewable energy plan for Hong Kong.

Iceland succeeded because of its long-term vision. In Hong Kong, it’s time to see the world beyond our own eyes.

Protecting this world is not a luxury, it is the responsibility to our children, to their children and to all living beings inhabiting this planet.

Yvonne Lui founded the Yvonne L. K. Lui Foundation in 2013 to support important global causes