Climate crisis: how Hong Kong can become a carbon-neutral city by 2050

For a start, set up renewable energy farms in the Greater Bay Area, overhaul the building code for greater energy efficiency, use electric buses and cars, and eat less meat
Hong Kong’s three-month public consultation on long-term decarbonisation strategies ended quietly amid the social unrest in the city and right before the United Nations Climate Action Summit. The Green Earth has submitted our views on this vital topic.
First, local power companies should consider investing in the development of large-scale renewable energy farms in the Greater Bay Area to supply Hong Kong with zero-carbon energy via dedicated cables. Project control would rest with the local power companies, reducing political and reliability concerns.
Given that this will involve a huge investment, setting up a green bond to attract public and corporate investment would make the project financially feasible.
Second, on energy conservation, the mandatory building energy code, which applies to new and existing buildings only when they undergo major renovation, is ineffective as most of the building stock can escape compliance as long as owners choose not to renovate.
The government should upgrade the standard to match technological advancements. To speed up the adoption of energy efficiency improvements, the government should apply carrot-and-stick strategies.
Third, when it comes to transport, we must aim to go electric or use zero-carbon fuel for private and commercial vehicles. Given that other cities power heavy buses with electricity, ensuring that we do the same for our minibuses and lighter vehicles should not be an issue.
Making any city more friendly to pedestrians and bicycles has been proven to reduce carbon emissions. This can be achieved with better city planning and growing more trees to shade our streets. Trees are a natural carbon sink which simultaneously suppress the urban heat island effect.
Finally, Hongkongers’ lifestyle is carbon intense. On average, we consume 664 grams of meat daily, which is 5.6 times the global average. Moreover, Hong Kong is the top importer of beef from Brazil where huge fires are burning up the Amazon rainforest. Lowering our meat consumption would lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Our government must do a lot more to educate and motivate the public and businesses to avert a climate crisis. Conserving energy and using clean renewable energy is a must-do. But by itself, it will not achieve a carbon-neutral city by 2050, which is a target the government must commit to.
We must all play our part by adjusting our lifestyles and reducing how much meat we eat and other unnecessary forms of consumption to save us and future generations from climate catastrophe.
Edwin Lau
Executive Director of The Green Earth
6 October 2019 SCMP