Breakthrough in Policy Address 2021 Requires Carbon Neutrality
| Dr Jeffrey Hung, Chief Executive Officer of FoE (HK)
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be held in Scotland in early November. The heads of state will jointly formulate the next steps on climate response plans, commitments and actions to prevent climate change disasters. In the 2020 policy address, the Hong Kong government pledged to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. One year later, Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan originally scheduled to be updated in the middle of this year has not yet been released. There is only 29 years left before 2050. Countries around the world are actively responding to climate change, the Hong Kong government must not neglect it. It must set clear mid-term goals and milestones, and pay practical actions to implement aggressive emission reduction strategies and measures. Otherwise, "carbon neutrality" is just a fantasy.
Hong Kong cannot lag behind the global trend on renewable energy development
In order to alleviate global warming, the world is actively developing renewable energy. The International Renewable Energy Agency pointed out that currently 134 countries have set clear renewable energy targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions. Take China as an example. As of the end of 2020, the total installed capacity of renewable energy power generation has increased by about 15% compared to 2012. In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, the Chinese government has also set a clear mid-term target for 2030 to increase the proportion of renewable energy consumption to 25%.
The European Union also launched the climate energy policy framework "Fit for 55" earlier, covering renewable energy development, energy efficiency, transportation, construction and other fields, significantly increasing the 2030 renewable energy consumption target from 32.5% to 40%. The Hong Kong government must not fall behind. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, it must make full use of the terrain and abundant sunlight of Hong Kong to conscientiously develop wind and solar energy. At the same time, it should strengthen regional cooperation in renewable energy development and provide direct supply to Hong Kong through dedicated lines to increase Hong Kong's low-carbon energy supply in the long run.
Develop green finance to achieve low-carbon transformation
Coping with climate change requires huge financial support, and green finance has been regarded as an important policy tool. In the past year, although Covid-19 has hit the global economy severely, various forms of green finance are still developing rapidly around the world. For example, Barclays Bank of the United Kingdom implemented a climate policy earlier, promising to align its entire financing portfolio with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement with the aim to become a "net zero" bank by 2050. In recent years, China’s green finance development has also been very impressive. China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission pointed out that as of the first quarter of this year, the green credit line of 21 major domestic banks has exceeded RMB 12 trillion. It is estimated that the amount of green investment projects involved can reduce more than 700 million tons of carbon emissions.
As an international financial center, Hong Kong definitely has the advantage of developing into a regional green financial center, leading the flow of market capital to green, low-carbon and climate-resistant projects. Green finance is one of the key projects of the "National 14th Five-Year Plan”, so the Hong Kong government must seize the opportunity of the mainland’s transition to "peak carbon emission in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060”. By integrating into the overall development of the country, Hong Kong can become a regional green financial hub.
Support green enterprises, train green talents
The Covid-19 epidemic has taught humankind a valuable lesson to reflect on the relationship between man and nature. The international community realizes that the current economic development model is unsustainable. The world is striving to explore economic transformation and has launched a green recovery plan that balances economic development and environmental sustainability. For instance, the United Kingdom have launched the "Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”, which will invest £12 billion to promote the development of green industries such as renewable energy, new energy vehicles, carbon capture and storage. In fact, environmental protection policies and financial policies can complement each other. The United Nations pointed out that the green industry not only promotes global economic growth, but also creates huge employment opportunities. The Hong Kong government must allocate more resources to provide training for relevant industries in order to maintain the city's competitiveness in sustainable development.
In order to cultivate green finance talents, Friends of the Earth (HK) started a partnership with The European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies (EFFAS) last year to introduce the top internationally recognized professional ESG course "Certified Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Analysts (CESGA®)", which aims to effectively equip industry professionals to become Professional ESG analyst. This year, Friends of the Earth (HK) also established the "CESGA® Scholarship" program to encourage young people to join the field of sustainable finance. This program hopes to promote the development of green finance by getting more young people to work in the industry.
The Chief Executive will issue a new policy address on October 6. Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to implement strong climate action, link environmental protection policies with financial policies, and promote green industry development and low-carbon economic transformation by providing economic incentives and strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.