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No time to delay on Hong Kong’s climate action (Issue Date: 22 October 2021)




The Hong Kong government announced the "Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050” in early October, proposing four major decarbonisation strategies. In the blueprint, the government has proposed a more aggressive midterm climate target of a 50% carbon reduction by 2035 from 2005 levels to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. As we all know, electricity generation is the biggest source of local emissions. However, Friends of the Earth (HK) is concerned whether the government can actually meet its midterm target; given that the Environment Bureau aims to only increase the supply of renewable energy to 7.5-10% by 2035.

Renewable energy is the key for deep carbon reduction

In recent years, the world has realized the seriousness of climate change. Governments of various countries have actively promoted the low-carbon transformation of the energy infrastructure. South Korea launched a long-term energy plan last year to phase out all coal-fired power plants by 2034 and increase the proportion of renewable energy to 40%. The European Union (EU) has also implemented the "EU Energy System Integration Strategy" and the "EU Hydrogen Energy Strategy" earlier to promote deep carbon reduction in various fields, such as energy production, industry, and transportation. The "World Energy Outlook 2020" report issued by the International Energy Agency earlier showed that renewable energy has the opportunity to replace coal as the world's main power generation model in 2025. It predicted that by 2030, it will provide nearly 40% of the world's electricity. In contrast, Hong Kong’s 15% renewable energy target is far behind other cities. The government must make full use of the potential of local wind and solar power generation, strengthen cooperation with China to develop the rich renewable energy resources in the region, and invest in research and development of battery energy storage technology to improve the stability of renewable energy.

"Office of Climate Change & Carbon Neutrality" has important rights and responsibilities

The Environment Bureau has established the "Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality" to strengthen overall planning and promote deep carbon reduction work, which is commendable. However, the Environment Bureau alone is not enough to deal with climate change. The low-carbon transition requires the cooperation of the government bureaus and departments. For example, the Transportation and Housing Bureau can reduce carbon emission through buildings and transportation measures. The Development Bureau should strengthen blue-green infrastructure in urban planning and develop low-carbon smart cities. The Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Drainage Services Department should also strengthen urban adaptation to extreme weather. Further, as global warming will induce various diseases, the Center for Health Protection must upgrade the public health system to respond to climate health risks. The government is currently lacking a statutory department to coordinate climate action. Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to give the "Office of Climate Change & Carbon Neutrality" clear rights and responsibilities, coordinate various departments to formulate comprehensive climate policies, and at the same time increase transparency, regularly disclose climate risks in Hong Kong, and review the climate risks of various departments. Climate related actions among different department have to be reported to evaluate and implement optimization plans.

Implement "carbon pricing” to make polluters pay

According to "State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2021” by the World Bank, over 64 countries today have implemented some form of carbon pricing scheme, which covers 21.5% of global emission. There are two main types of carbon pricing: emissions trading systems (ETS) and carbon taxes. Carbon taxes directly set a price on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted by taxable enterprises while ETS caps the total level of greenhouse gases and makes carbon emissions as a commodity. Relevant industries are allowed to freely trade carbon allowances in the market. According to statistics, EU ETS has reduced carbon emissions by an average of 1.4% per year, and the total carbon emissions have significantly reduced by 20% compared with 2005. Besides, China’s national carbon market launched in July 2021, becoming the largest ETS in the world. The market would regulate annual emission of over 4,000 MtCO2. The Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group, formed by HKSAR last year, promised to assess Hong Kong’s feasibility to be the regional carbon trading centre in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Nonetheless, these are still insufficient to cut carbon emission. Hong Kong must set a price on carbon to reflect the polluter pays principle and to drive the adoption of low-carbon solutions.

The United Nations issued the sixth climate change assessment report earlier, sounding a "red alert" to mankind and emphasizing that time is running out to prevent irreversible climate disasters.

The Hong Kong government must show its determination and adopt a holistic approach to accelerate the implementation of deep decarbonisationstrategies, in order to achieve carbon neutrality. Friends of the Earth (HK) and World Benchmark Alliance (WBA) will jointly host the "Carbon Neutrality Forum" on November 8 to discuss the performance of the Asian oil & gas companies in low-carbon transition. For details, please refer to our website.


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