Anemic response a sign of Hong Kong's future green policy direction?
| Wendell Chan, Senior Policy Research and Advocacy Officer, Friends of the Earth (HK)
How important is sustainable development to our future policymakers? The legislative election is just a few days away. 90 seats are being contested by 153 candidates, but how green are they?
Over the past week, we surveyed the legislative candidates via email to learn where they stand on various environmental topics, from climate change to green finance. Only sixteen bothered to respond and ten did not even have an email address—we can see where the priority lies for our candidates. Nevertheless, there are some findings to be made.
Since the Hong Kong government has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, it is promising to see wide support from responding candidates on clean energy and other climate policies.
A less enthusiastic stance was taken on carbon pricing though, with around thirty percent expressing a neutral view towards the policy.
At the surface, carbon pricing may seem like another tax, but it is intended to capture the externalities of carbon-emitting activities and shift the burden to those responsible under a polluter pays principle. Furthermore, tax credits and other revenue recycling mechanisms can help to ease the burden on poor households.
Carbon pricing has been implemented across 45 countries and 34 subnational jurisdictions today, representing 21.5% of global greenhouse emissions. Amongst them is China, whom launched its national emission trading scheme this year in July for power sectors and with plans to cover other carbon-intensive industries—like petrochemical, building materials, and aviation—in the future.
Transport policies was another area where we saw more divisive views from candidates, particularly on vehicle quotas to tackle the rising car numbers, which are contributing to clogged up roads, slow traffic, and unhealthy levels of roadside air pollution that consistently exceeds the government’s air quality objectives.
Multiple international cities, such as Madrid, Oslo, Paris, and more, have since moved to become "car-free” to combat worsening air pollution and congestion.
Sustainable development is core to Hong Kong’s liveability, thus it was disappointing to see such an anemic response from our potential future legislative councillors. We hope this apathy is not indicative of the coming legislative council.
We urge those who will be voting to cast their vote for the environment. Elect candidates who are committed to drive carbon neutrality, improve our air quality, and promote circular economy and green finance. Elect those who will exercise their powers to govern environmental and climate policymaking effectively.