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Carrie Lam's policy address 2018

Before Lantau Tomorrow, Hong Kong today needs to measure carbon footprint of artificial islands

  • The UN panel on climate change has urged the international community to triple efforts to reduce carbon emission and limit global warming
  • The Hong Kong government does not seem to have considered the carbon footprint of its Lantau artificial islands plan
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 5:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2019, 5:59am

We refer to the report, “Hong Kong, Shenzhen reclamation plans may be on collision course” (January 2), on how the city will compete against Shenzhen for river sand, rocks and other infilling material necessary for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s Lantau Tomorrow project, thereby further driving up the total cost currently estimated at HK$500 billion.

Since the delivery of the policy address in October, the reclamation plan has met with severe criticism due to its projected financial burden on Hong Kong society, the permanent damage to marine biodiversity, and the lack of coordination with other cities in the Greater Bay Area.

Despite its potential to provide more housing in the long term, we believe that the Hong Kong government should not push forward with the reclamation project without carefully and quantitatively assessing the carbon footprint of building the artificial islands.

Such assessment, also known as carbon auditing, is necessary for curbing the climate change that could threaten the livelihood of future generations.

Hong Kong 2050 decarbonisation plan to heed UN call for action

In a recent report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urged the international community to triple efforts to reduce carbon emission and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Otherwise, global warming of 2 degrees Celsius will lead to more droughts, floods and other types of disastrous weather, causing tremendous economic losses and unbearable human suffering.

Under the Paris climate agreement, Hong Kong is committed to reducing the carbon intensity of its economy, for example, by replacing coal with natural gas for electricity generation. The government has also issued guidelines on carbon auditing for offices, schools and other public facilities.

Nevertheless, in response to our inquiry, the Development Bureau only promised to assess the environmental impact of the reclamation project under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance but fell short of specifically addressing the issue of carbon emission.

Lack of ‘champion’ affecting climate change action, report warns

A recent  study in Indonesia identified three sources of carbon emissions in the process of land reclamation – extracting, transporting and dumping the infilling materials – which could be estimated based on the fuel consumption of heavy machinery. In addition, more carbon dioxide could be released from the site, as the reclamation project would inevitably undermine the carbon sequestration capacity of the area.

Therefore, we urge the Hong Kong government and its consulting firms to calculate the total carbon emissions of the reclamation project and to assess the project’s impact on the carbon intensity of the city’s economy, before moving forward with the “Lantau Tomorrow” plan.

Minsi Liu and Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong