Sustainable development rests on three key pillars: social, environmental and economic policy. For any city to prosper, its leader must ensure that these policy areas are based on sound foundations and well supported. Unfortunately, the endless political turmoil can hardly make Hong Kong prosper. On the contrary, it will harm many businesses and people.
Although Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has formulated many effective environmental policies, the current political tension makes it difficult for him to win approval from legislators.
If environmental problems cannot be tackled as they should be through legislation, the result will be that we all have to keep suffering from pollution and extreme weather events. Is this what Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wants Hong Kong to become during her tenure?
While Lam drags her feet on solving the city’s acute political emergency, the global environment continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
According to Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29 this year, the earliest ever. This means that humanity had used up all ecological resources that Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in the year by that day. So, for the rest of the year, we will be living in ecological deficit.
Our government cannot ignore these environmental alarms and continue to believe the city can be sustained forever by buying from elsewhere the resources we can’t provide for ourselves.
For instance, food, water and energy are basic resources Hong Kong cannot provide enough of to meet its own demand. Climate change will alter weather patterns and it is rather shortsighted to assume Dongjiang will remain forever immune to rainfall shortage. So we need to work towards becoming self-sufficient in terms of water supply, as Singapore has been doing.
The government recently announced that Hong Kong’s annual per person carbon emissions have dropped from 6.2 tonnes (2014) to 5.5 tonnes (2017). But according to a study by the University of Hong Kong, if consumption-based accounting is used to estimate our carbon emissions, the figure is more than double the government’s estimate.
I urge Lam to consider all aspects of the current crisis to formulate a revolutionary policy address capable of steering Hong Kong towards harmony on all fronts.
Setting a carbon-neutral target for Hong Kong would be a revolutionary goal, and one that Lam should be proud to commit to, among other desperately needed social conflict-relieving policies.
Executive Director of The Green Earth
12 August 2019 SCMP