UN World Environment Day: Hong Kong must strengthen climate leadership to meet carbon targets, says NGO – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

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The government needs to step up climate leadership to meet its carbon neutrality goal, an environmental NGO said, amid a heatwave in the city that has seen the death of a 66-year-old construction worker.

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time of climate crisis heat wave
File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Extreme weather is becoming an unwanted new normal due to climate change, Friends of the Earth said in a statement on Thursday, ahead of the United Nations’ World Environment Day on Monday. As our greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the planet, extreme weather conditions such as typhoons and heat waves will be more frequent and severe.

Chief Executive John Lee’s 2023 policy speech promised to reduce “total carbon emissions by 50 percent before 2035 (from the 2005 level) in order to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality before 2050,” but he was low on new environmental initiatives.

The green group has called on authorities to implement renewable energy sources in the region by collaborating with the Greater Bay Area and creating a hydrogen economy to decarbonise industrial processes and transportation.

coal-fired Lamma power plant
Coal at Lamma Island Power Plant. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

He also said that the city must speed up the electrification of its commercial and public transportation systems and that the government must tighten building energy codes and enforce building lifecycle assessments.

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On May 17, Environment and Ecology Secretary Tse Chin-wan told the legislature that Hong Kong has only five all-electric taxis on the road, less than one percent of the fleet of 18,163 people. Additionally, tariffs for government charging stations are expected to be introduced this year, although the number of stations is expected to increase to 7,000 by 2025.

Friends of the Earth recommendations for Hong Kong – click to see.
  • Renewable Energy: Electricity generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong. The government must prioritize the phase-out of fossil fuels and should work with the Greater Bay Area to explore the vast potential of renewable energy sources in the region.
  • Hydrogen Economy: Achieving full electrification of energy consumption can prove challenging, especially for some industrial processes and modes of transportation. The government should develop a roadmap for the transition to a hydrogen economy.
  • Building Lifecycle: The building sector accounts for 90% of the city’s electricity demand, but the carbon embodied in building materials remains dispersed. The government needs to strengthen building energy codes and mandate building life cycle assessments to achieve zero carbon buildings in both construction and operation.
  • Low-Carbon Transportation: Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong and also contributes to roadside air pollution. Hong Kong must accelerate the electrification of its commercial and public transport systems.
  • Planetary Healthy Diet: The prevalence of meat-rich diets in Hong Kong contributes significantly to the city’s unaccounted consumption emissions. Hong Kong must actively promote healthier and more sustainable food patterns as a key component of its long-term decarbonisation strategy.
  • Climate education: The success of low-carbon solutions and policy strategies depends on society’s recognition of the urgency of climate change. The government must implement climate and sustainability education in schools and offer job training and certificate programs to prepare society for a low-carbon transition.
  • Carbon price: The negative externalities of carbon-emitting activities are not currently reflected in their cost. Hong Kong must implement a carbon pricing mechanism to align with the “polluter pays” principle and incentivize the adoption of low-carbon solutions.
  • Green finance: As a major international financial centre, Hong Kong should leverage its robust infrastructure to accelerate the low-carbon transition. The city should accelerate the development of its green finance talent pool and align with globally recognized green and sustainability standards to establish itself as a leading global green financial center of the future.
  • Reforestation: Restoring natural environments, such as forests and mangroves, on a large scale is one of the most effective means of capturing atmospheric carbon. The government must preserve existing natural environments and restore degraded ecosystems.
  • Carbon capture, use and storage: In addition to planting trees, the government should invest in research and development to explore a variety of carbon removal strategies to address climate change without unintended consequences.
  • Climate adaptation: In addition to reducing emissions, the government must take proactive steps to prepare the city for climate impacts. Hong Kong must ensure that our infrastructure, economy and communities are resilient to rising temperatures, sea levels and extreme weather events such as storms and floods.

On building regulations, the government has pledged to increase the energy performance of government buildings and infrastructure by more than 6% by 202425, but remains committed to a huge and controversial construction project in the New Territories, while the Kau Yi HK$580 billion Chau The Artificial Islands project involves the reclamation of 1,700 hectares.

Friends of the Earth also said the government should promote healthier and more sustainable diets and implement climate and sustainability education in schools. Meanwhile, the government should embody the ‘polluter pays’ principle and implement a carbon pricing mechanism and accelerate the development of its green finance talent pool to align with international sustainability standards, the NGO said.

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Deforested areas of Lantau
Deforested areas of Lantau as seen from satellite imagery in February 2021. Photo: Google Earth Pro screenshot.

Investments in reforestation, preserving existing natural environments and restoring degraded ecosystems, would help ensure that the city’s infrastructure, economy and communities are resilient to climate change, he added, along with investments in the capture, utilization and storage of the carbon.

The world is predicted to cross the 1.5°C mark in the next five years. Climate change threatens all of humanity. Hong Kong’s low-carbon shift requires acknowledgment that decarbonization should be the government’s primary goal, the statement read.

Heat wave

Mercury has exceeded 34 degrees Celsius four times in the past week, with relative humidity ranging between 59 and 93 percent, according to data from the Observatory.

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On Saturday, a 66-year-old glue worker nicknamed Ip lost consciousness and fell from scaffolding at the Chinese University’s New Asia College Friendship Lodge after Amber’s heat stress alarm was raised.

He was later pronounced dead at Prince of Wales Hospital.

Hot hot heatwave on the street sweeper's blue collar waterfront
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

The Labor Department last month implemented the three-tier alert system with updated guidelines for rest periods and heat stress prevention, under which outdoor workers can benefit from rest or work breaks. Work. However, the guidelines are not legally binding.

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Last month, the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) launched a new special weather tip notification, which will be sent to app users when the mercury reaches or exceeds 35 degrees Celsius.

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