Hong Kong appears no closer to carbon neutrality by 2050 under John Lee
- The policy address should have included measures and incentives to significantly reduce energy consumption in the city
- Lee also missed the opportunity to promote green growth through investment in sustainable energy sources
In the past, former environment minister Wong Kam-sing would brief representatives from green groups, professional bodies and government committees on the government’s environmental measures. That important step in engaging the community unfortunately has not happened this year.
Yet, I see no targets in the policy address for existing buildings, which make up most of the city’s stock, to comply with or go beyond the current codes for energy efficiency. Perhaps the only relevant KPI is to improve the energy performance of all government buildings and infrastructure by more than 6 per cent by 2024-25.
Other economies have already shown us the way. Last year, Singapore set a target for at least 80 per cent, by gross floor area, of its buildings to become green by 2030. As of this year, 49 per cent of its buildings have already reached that target.
In Hong Kong, developers are keen to construct new buildings with green certifications such as BEAM Plus (Building Environmental Assessment Method) or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as they can then sell or rent them for higher prices. Yet, efforts to make existing buildings more efficient are rare.
Offering incentives or subsidies for small-scale projects that make buildings more efficient would certainly drive the city’s decarbonisation process at a much faster pace. For instance, replacing a large air-cooled chiller with two smaller water-cooled ones could improve energy efficiency by 20-30 per cent.
More pronounced energy savings can be achieved by adopting advanced technologies that are already available in the market.
Lee’s administration should take advantage of the opportunities arising from the demand for zero-carbon energies. One idea is to use the vast government-owned space around our reservoirs and landfills (both closed and existing) to build solar farms.
This would create a stable source of revenue for the government while accelerating the city’s decarbonisation efforts. Ignoring opportunities like this is irresponsible and unwise.
Edwin Lau Che-feng is executive director of The Green Earth