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【Press Release】Friends of the Earth (HK) Response to the 2023 Policy Address | Be a Climate Leader to Safeguard Hong Kong Citizens

Friends of the Earth (HK) Response to the 2023 Policy Address

Be a Climate Leader to Safeguard Hong Kong Citizens

The chief executive announced the "2023 Policy Address” today.Friends of the Earth (HK)welcomes plans to formulate the Strategy of Hydrogen Development in Hong Kong and a citywide green transformation roadmap and timetable for public buses and taxis in the first half of 2024. We are pleased to see the government incorporating sustainable aviation fuels into its long-term decarbonisation strategy and providing funding support for pre-commercialised green Fintech to expand the green Fintech ecosystem. Still, climate change continues to be the most pressing issue threatening Hong Kong. The once-in-500-years rainstorm in September showed that the city is still underprepared against climate impacts, and that there is still a major gap between the government’s stated climate ambition and actual actions.

In response to this policy address,Friends of the Earth (HK)strongly urges the government to adopt the following recommendations:

Climate change

1. Increasing renewable energy in the energy mix:Renewable energy is now the cheapest option for new electricity generation in many parts of the world. While land-use and space restrictions are often cited as local barriers, Hong Kong can foster regional collaboration on renewable energy development and utilisation to greatly hasten decarbonisation pace.

2. Reducing building electricity demand:Air conditioning accounts for a significant portion of the city’s electricity use. As a hotter climate increases cooling demand, Hong Kong must tighten the Building Energy Efficiency Ordinance and support energy efficient building designs to limit climate impact.

3. Leading the green aviation sector:Growth in aviation emissions has outpaced rail, road or shipping. To counter emission growth, Hong Kong must significantly ramp up investment in sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and set targets to increase their use.

4. Pricing carbon emissions appropriately:The cost of burning of fossil fuels is currently not reflecting their contribution to climate change and the burden on healthcare systems. Hong Kong must put a price on carbon emission through carbon tax or emission trade to discourage overuse and to drive low-carbon solutions.

5. Protecting citizens with climate adaptation:More frequent and more intense extreme weather is expected under climate change. Hong Kong must show proactiveness in developing adaptation measures to protect citizens from climate impacts.

6. Establishing a climate change authority:The city’s Commissioner for Climate Change is lacking in authority to influence government policies. Hong Kong must establish a climate change authority to lead and coordinate the government’s climate strategies.

Air Quality

1. Strengthening the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs):Air pollution kills millions of people yearly. To minimise the public health burden, Hong Kong must tighten its AQOs and strive to meet the World Health Organisation’s final air quality guideline levels.

2. Decarbonising the transport network:In addition to private electric vehicles, Hong Kong must expedite the electrification of public and commercial vehicles and continue to prioritise public transport and discourage car dependence as a long-term transport management strategy.

3. Becoming a more pedestrian-friendly city:Walkability and cyclability are increasingly seen as hallmarks of a liveable city. Hong Kong must invest in walking and cycling infrastructure to facilitate low-carbon and sustainable transport modes.

Circular Economy

1. Ensuring successful rollout for waste charging:Waste charging is a crucial component in tackling the city’s longstanding waste issue. To prevent any further delays and facilitate a smooth rollout, Hong Kong must build up infrastructure, provide economic support, enhance outreach, and set up a whistleblower system.

2. Expanding coverage of producer responsibility:To achieve the government’s waste reduction goals, Hong Kong must expand producer responsibility at a faster pace, establish more recovery channels and greatly expand the city’s recycling infrastructure for more waste items—with a focus on food waste.

3. Encouraging green procurement:More products and services are claiming to be green or sustainable, but there are limited means of ascertaining said claims locally. Hong Kong needs to create a certification scheme for green products and services and incentivise businesses to prioritise procuring green and sustainable.

Sustainable Development

1. Enhancing the urban trees and forests:Green spaces are an important piece to the puzzle of making cities liveable. Hong Kong should strengthen tree management and develop urban forestry, by integrating nature into urban planning and streamlining the tree management hierarchy.

2. Supporting the green industry and green jobs:As the largest employer and procurer of goods and services, governments play a pivotal role in driving green demand. Hong Kong must encourage the private sector to embrace sustainable development by taking the lead and facilitating the development of the green industry.

3. Becoming a sustainable, smart city:A robust digital backbone enables sustainable initiatives and policies. Hong Kong must embrace digitalisation to support a more informed environmental policymaking and monitoring ecosystem.

4. Enabling sustainable consumption and green behaviours: Embracing sustainable consumption can significantly cut down our consumption-based carbon emission. Hong Kong has to carry out a systematic and comprehensive overhaul of environmental and sustainability education to enable sustainable consumption and green behaviours.

5. Fostering local and regional collaboration:Hong Kong must foster greater collaboration with the private sector, academic institutions, and community organisations on more environmental affairs. Hong Kong should also partner with the Greater Bay Area on regional environmental issues.

Green Finance

1. Boost market liquidity and returns via ESG and green finance: Hong Kong should involve the wider institutional investor base to study the impact of ESG and green finance on market valuation and liquidity. Regulatory support and standardisation of ESG practices can enhance investor confidence, attract sustainable-focused investors, and improve liquidity.

2. Speed up the transformation to a regional carbon trading centre: Hong Kong should expand the Core Climate platform to include more sectors and entities over time, broadening its impact on emissions reduction and attracting a wider array of stakeholders to engage in carbon trading.

3. Ensure the efficacy and success of green talent programs: Hong Kong should establish a robust framework for quality control. The government can foster collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders to identify the specific skills and knowledge required within the green sector.

4. Foster the growth of the green collar workforce in APAC: Hong Kong could fund NGOs to strengthen ESG and green finance in schools, and across the eight universities and higher education institutions to expedite ESG talent incubation locally.

Hong Kong must close the gap between its stated climate ambitions and actual actions. It has to demonstrate its determination in tackling climate change and various environmental issues with aggressive emission reduction strategies, in order to build Hong Kong into a truly sustainable and liveable world-class city.

Encl. Friends of the Earth (HK) Response to the 2022 Policy Address Consultation

Interested Topic:
Climate Change
Green Economy

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