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Friends of the Earth (HK) Response to the "Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050": Walk the Climate Talk, Secure a Climate-Safe Future

The government updates its climate strategy with "Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050” today. Friends of the Earth (HK) praises the Environment Bureau for adopting our recommendation to set up the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality for coordinating climate actions and decarbonisation strategy. We also welcome the move to strengthen the midterm climate target of a 50% carbon reduction by 2035 from 2005 levels.

Despite so, Friends of the Earth (HK) is concerned whether the government can actually meet its midterm target; given that while the Environment Bureau aims to increase the supply of zero-carbon energy to 60-70% by 2035, it will only meet 7.5-15% of the energy mix with renewable energy.

Friends of the Earth (HK) has outlined "a list of decarbonisation tasks" that needs clearer targets, timetable, and policy upgrade to achieve the carbon neutrality goal before 2050:

1. Renewable Energy: The use of natural gas to replace coal and the target to increase the share of renewable energy to 15% of the energy mix is far from what Hong Kong needs to do achieve carbon neutrality. Hong Kong must completely phase out fossil fuels and should collaborate with the Greater Bay Area to tap into the abundant wealth of renewable energy sources in the region.

2. Hydrogen Economy: Full electrification of energy consumption may be difficult, particularly with some industrial processes and transportation modes. The government should develop a roadmap for a hydrogen economy.

3. Building Energy Code: The building sector is the major source of carbon emission in Hong Kong—accounting for 90% of electricity demand. The Government must update and strengthen the building energy codes regularly to ensure a continual reduction in building energy use and to reach zero emission by 2050

4. Building Operation: Building energy management system and smart meter integration can enable finer control over consumption patterns. The government should work with the power companies to expedite the installation of smart meters in all residences and mandate buildings to install building energy management systems.

5. Building Embedded Carbon: Embedded carbon in building materials makes up for 20% of a building’s lifecycle emission but currently not accounted for in carbon assessments. The government must obligate all building to perform life cycle assessments, including embedded carbon and building operations.

6. Low-Carbon Transport: Transportation accounts for second largest share of greenhouse gas emission in the city and also contributes to roadside air pollution. Hong Kong must electrify its commercial and public transportation on a much earlier schedule.

7. Waste Management: Waste is the third largest source of Hong Kong’s local greenhouse gas emissions. The government must ramp up the scale of food waste reduction, recycling and recovery in the city, including food redistribution, bioconversion, and energy recovery

8. Planetary Health Diet: Meat-heavy diets in Hong Kong make up for a significant chunk of the city’s unaccounted-for emission. Hong Kong must strongly promote healthier and sustainable dietary patterns as part of its long-term decarbonisation strategy.

9. Climate Education: The effectiveness of low-carbon solutions and policy strategies depends on the society’s acknowledgement of climate change. The government must implement climate and sustainability education in schools and offer vocational training and certification programmes to prepare the society for a low-carbon transition.

10. Carbon Pricing: Carbon-emitting activities are still socialising negative externalities and not priced to reflect their true cost on the society. Hong Kong must set a price on carbon to reflect the polluter pays principle and to drive the adoption of low-carbon solutions.

11. Green Finance: As one of the top international finance centre, Hong Kong can leverage its robust infrastructure to accelerate this low-carbon transition. The city should be developing its green finance talent pool and aligning with globally-recognised green and sustainability standards to establish itself as a global green financial centre of the future.

12. Reforestation: Large-scale restoration of natural environments, such as forests and mangroves, is one of the most effective means to capture atmospheric carbon. The government needs to preserve existing natural environments and restore degraded ecosystems.

13. Carbon Capture and Storage: Besides tree planting, the government should invest in research and development to explore the different carbon removal strategies to address climate change without unintended consequences.

14. Policy Orientation: Hong Kong’s low-carbon shift requires a recognition that decarbonisation should be the overarching goal of the government. Bureaux need to work together—and not as silos—to integrate climate policies in a holistic manner.

Climate change is threatening people’s livelihood today. Heatwaves, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and more have become more frequent and severe. Hong Kong is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as a coastal city.

The government must back their proposed climate targets with more than just empty words and pledges. Hong Kong needs ambitious climate actions to transition to a climate-resilient economy and secure a climate-safe future. 

Interested Topic:
City Forestry, Forestry City
Climate Change

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