香港地球之友綠色金融顧問 Alexandra Tracy

綠色城市對發展低碳及具氣候抗禦力的未來至為重要。

到2030年,預計將有超過5.5億人遷移到亞洲城市,而他們將會製造超過國內生產總值的85%,並增加城市人口比重至大約44%。城市已經佔全球能源使用量和與能源相關的溫室氣體排放量約70%,此數字將隨著城市的增長而提升。

對於亞洲地區的新興城市來說,未來陸續有機會出現跨越歷史模式的城市化,並會優先著重發展資源效率更高、氣候友善的城市。預計到2050年,還有極多甚至達75%預料將城市化的地區尚未建成!

但對於像香港這樣的成熟城市來說,改善現有的情況十分重要。為了實現港府的《 香港氣候行動藍圖2030+》(包括減少至少26%碳排放量)的目標,三大關鍵領域必須進行重大改變:建築、廢物處理及交通。

  • 建築物

目前本港超過60%碳排放量可歸咎於建築物發電。儘管香港已經對新建築物設立了環保標準,但其實建築物在節能上仍有很多空間可做,例如更新和改造陳舊和低效率的舊建築。

更新舊建築的困難不在技術,而在於融資。大多數業主不願提供資金來進行改善工程,因工程效果可能需要數年才呈現出來。但是,商業資金並不是垂手可得,大多數銀行視效能項目為散亂、繁瑣的分析工作,而且規模又太小,不足以引起關注。

  • 廢物處理

在人口稠密的香港,廢物問題日益嚴峻。這個城市每年產生約640萬公噸廢物,但僅能收集和處理一小部分可回收廢物。香港約有三分之二的垃圾被運往堆填區,預計今年的存放量將會爆滿。再者,堆填區垃圾通常帶有劇毒,會嚴重破壞周圍的生態系統。

我們急需新的資金來支持發展創新技術以解決廢物管理問題,例如堆肥及循環再用,特別是轉廢為能的技術。香港政府正在為轉廢為能設施制訂長遠計劃,但現在尚未清楚將如何籌集資金。

  • 運輸

運輸產生的碳排放量約佔本港總排放量的16%。鐵路和電車系統依靠電力運行,而車輛則主要由柴油、汽油及石油氣驅動。香港的空氣質素問題,尤其是路邊污染,仍然是一大挑戰。

多年來,香港政府為推廣電動車,提供了可說是全球數一數二最慷慨的稅務優惠,但就因使用公帑來補貼購買貴價車輛而備受批評。隨後港府取消了最大誘因,電動車購買率亦迅速下降。

填補資金缺口

要逐漸改變公眾及商業行為的最有效方法之一,就是令這些變化變得「可負擔」。我們只需要環顧全球其他城市的成功案例分析,便能找到解決特定城市氣候問題的資金解決方案。

以建築物作例子。在紐約,一家名為Sealed Inc.的能源效益公司推出了一項創新計劃,該計劃不僅可為房屋進行更新工程,還可以為業主提供簡便的繳款方式。Sealed可以為大規模的房屋效能提升提供資金,也可以成為屋主的水電費賬單代理。屋主每月向Sealed支付賬單,費用已包括房屋使用的能源和更新工程的投資。對於業主來說,這比嘗試在其他地方籌集資金簡單得多。

另一例子是運輸。在澳洲,政府支持的潔淨能源金融公司提供了5,000萬澳元融資,鼓勵車隊買家選擇更潔淨的車輛型號。這筆資金使Eclipx Group(澳洲當地最大的獨立車隊租賃公司之一)為投資達到低碳排放標準的私家車和輕型商用車客戶,提供較低利率優惠。該筆貸款隨後會被「打包」,並在資本市場出售。

總結來說,香港可以利用更多個案研究和先例來彌補自身的融資缺口,因為始終監管和教育做到的改變不多,金融還是過渡至綠色城市的重要組成條件。

Greener cities are essential to a low carbon and climate resilient future.

By 2030, more than 550 million people are expected to move to cities in Asia, where they will generate more than 85% of GDP and bring the urban share of the population to roughly 44 percent.  Cities are already responsible for around 70 percent of global energy use and energy related greenhouse gas emissions, which will increase as they grow.

For the new and emerging cities in the region, there should still be the possibility to leapfrog historical approaches to urbanisation and to prioritise the development of more resource efficient, climate friendly cities – a whopping 75% of the area expected to be urban by 2050 has not yet been built !

But for a mature city like Hong Kong, it is largely a matter of improving upon what we already have in the ground.  In order to meet the goals of the government’s Climate Action Plan 2030+ (including carbon emissions reductions of at least 26%), significant change has to occur in three key sectors: buildings, waste management and transportation.

  • Buildings

Over 60% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions are attributable to generating electricity for buildings.  While new buildings are already subject to a green standards regime in Hong Kong, there is substantial potential for energy savings by upgrading and retrofitting aging and inefficient building stock.

The bottleneck in building upgrade is not technology, but financing.  Building owners tend to be reluctant to provide capital for improvements that will take several years to pay back.  However, very little commercial funding is available, as most banks view energy efficiency projects as disparate, onerous to analyse and too small sized to justify much attention.

  • Waste Management

In densely populated Hong Kong, waste is an increasingly challenging issue.  The territory generates around 6.4 million tonnes of waste each year but is able to collect and process only a minimal portion of recyclable waste.  Approximately two thirds of Hong Kong’s waste goes into landfills, whose existing capacity is expected to be full up this year.  Landfill waste is typically highly toxic and can severely damage surrounding ecosystems.

New capital is required to support innovative technologies to tackle waste management, such as composting and recycling, and in particular waste to energy.  The Hong Kong government is creating a long term plan for the development of waste to energy facilities, but it not clear how this roll out will be funded.

  • Transportation

Carbon emissions from transportation make up about 16% of the total emissions in Hong Kong.  While the rail and tram systems are run on electricity, road vehicles are mostly powered by diesel, petrol and LPG.  Air quality in Hong Kong, especially roadside pollution, remains a significant challenge.

For several years, the Hong Kong government provided some of the most generous tax incentives in the world for the adoption of electric vehicles, but faced strong criticism for using public money to subsidise the purchase of high end vehicles.  The incentive was subsequently withdrawn and electric vehicle purchase rates decreased rapidly.

Filling the Funding Gaps

One of the most effective ways of altering public and business behaviour is by making change affordable.  We only need to look around the world at successful case studies from other cities where funding solutions have been put in place to tackle specific urban climate issues.

To take just one example, buildings.  In New York, an energy efficiency company called Sealed Inc introduced an innovative programme that would carry out upgrades but also offer home owners an easy way to pay for them.  Sealed advances the capital for the bulk of a household’s efficiency upgrades and also takes over as the billing agent for the home owner’s utility bills.  The home owner pays Sealed a monthly bill that covers both the household’s energy use and the upgrade investment.  This is a much easier solution for the home owner than trying to get financing somewhere else.

Or another example, transportation.  In Australia, the government backed Clean Energy Finance Corporation provided financing of A$50 million to encourage vehicle fleet buyers to choose cleaner models.  This funding allowed Eclipx Group, one of Australia’s largest independent fleet leasing companies, to offer financing at lower interest rates to customers who invested in passenger and light commercial vehicles satisfying low emissions benchmarks.  The loans were later packaged and sold in the capital market.

There are many more case studies and precedents on which Hong Kong could build to fill its own funding gaps.  Regulation and education can only go so far.  Finance is an essential part of the transition to a greener city.