On the 6th of November, in preparation for the upcoming 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21), the Environment Bureau released the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015. The intention of this report is to provide directions and promote opportunities of how companies, organisations and individuals can contribute to reducing carbon emissions and address climate change impacts. It supports Hong Kong’s ambitious target to reduce its carbon intensity by 50-60% from the 2005 level by 2020.
The report acknowledges that climate change is a multiplier of risks and offers communities a chance to embark on a low-carbon path, which brings many societal benefits such as saving money, creating new jobs, smarter utilisation of limited resources, healthier biodiversity and ecosystems. The report refers to a number of earlier public studies and consultations in drawing the efforts: Public Consultation on the Future Development of the Electricity Market (March 2015), Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong’s Built Environment 2015-2025, Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022, and Food Waste and Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022. It outlines that the major opportunity for carbon emissions reduction lies within energy saving measures in the areas of: revising the fuel mix for local electricity generation, practicing energy savings in buildings, greening transportation, and turning waste to resources. Each of the key areas are briefly summarised below.
The Public Consultation on the Future Development of the Electricity Market (March 2015) concluded that less GHG emissions intense electricity generation can be achieved through reduced coal usage in the fuel mix by using more natural gas, nuclear electricity and renewable energy. The report also suggests that about 90% of Hong Kong’s electricity consumption is related to buildings and highlights how the Hong Kong community can drive energy saving through various means. New buildings can be better designed, while existing buildings re-commissioned, audited, better managed and retrofitted. A number of programmes, regulatory measures and certifications to support these efforts are offered such as the Building Energy Efficiency Ordinance (BEEO), Energy Efficiency Labelling of Products 0rdinance (EELPO), and Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM). The Government is leading the way by incorporating these tools across its 8,000 plus buildings, and also encouraging real estate developers to implement them in their new developments. A more detailed reference on different measures can be found in the Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong’s Built Environment 2015-2025. While these efforts are promising, the report also acknowledges that there is a gap on the private sector side where there are more than 42,000 buildings. It offers rather limited views on the solutions for the older buildings and financing mechanisms for the buildings owned by the private sector, where owners may have little incentives to adopt any of the measures listed above.
Transport is another area that can permit significant carbon emissions reductions and accounts for 17% of total GHG emissions in Hong Kong. The key measures include making public transport the primary choice for mobility. The strategy is to continue expanding rail services and improving operations energy efficiency and vehicle fuel efficiency in order to achieve significant gains. In addition, more climate change neutral modes such as electric vehicles (EVs) are promoted. The number of EVs has been rising progressively and now accounts to about 3% for private cars. The Government is also testing options for low-carbon and zero emissions by exploring opportunities for franchised bus technologies. However, at the moment the wider EVs use is restricted to various limitations and challenges such as charging stations and opportunities to scale. At a recent event, a handful of leading Hong Kong companies suggested that perhaps industry wide collaborations can be a way forward for making the business case for scaling EVs opportunities.
Waste is an enormous problem for Hong Kong with major landfills approaching capacity limitations. The report indicates that at the moment waste treatment accounts only for about 5% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions. A new approach to waste management is to recover and use landfill gas, recover energy from sludge treatment, develop waste-to energy and treatment for organic and yard waste and municipal solid waste. The primary objective is to reduce waste at sources by achieving 40% municipal sewage waste (MSW) disposal rate (per day) by 2020. A more detailed strategy is outlined in Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022, and Food Waste and Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022. This is an ambitious target and presents a number of challenges at the implementation level such as how to ensure waste separation at source and further on recycling to close the loop.
While the report provides a comprehensive summary of opportunities, especially for the public and to some extent for the private sector and outlines potential risks from climate change, it offers somewhat limited solutions for individual behaviour change. Some of the solutions require radical shift in perspective for even the most advanced businesses. For example, at the moment 30% of electricity consumption is generated through air conditioning. Therefore, if the change is to happen, there is a need for a critical business action. For those businesses that are already embracing climate change risks, the benefits are evident and organisations like the Hong Kong Airport Authority has been on the path to reduce their impact on climate change through greener buildings, adaption of EVs and energy reductions. Yet, if the climate change risks are to be managed at a wider degree, it will profoundly depend on individuals and small businesses being more active participants.