Presided over by a delegation from Fiji, the 23rd Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23, was held in Bonn, Germany, in mid-November.
Fiji was chosen to chair the meeting because it is one of the hardest hit countries by global warming and climate change.
Not only has Fiji been witnessing continued sea level rise at a substantially faster pace than the world average over the past 20 years, the remote island country was also devastated by Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere last year, resulting in significant casualties and economic damage amounting to US$1 billion.
As global warming continues to intensify, an increasing number of countries and regions across the world are suffering from extreme weather conditions on a frequent basis, including Hong Kong. For example, over the past few years, fiercely strong typhoons have been hitting our city more frequently and relentlessly than before.
One might still remember typhoons Hato and Pakhar, which brought signal No. 10 and 8, respectively, that swept across Hong Kong one after the other within five days in August this year, resulting in massive flooding across the territory.
In the meantime, our city has also recorded unusually heavy rainfall more frequently in recent years. As such, in the face of escalating global climate change, Hong Kong can no longer afford to remain on the sidelines doing nothing.
In her recent policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to develop Hong Kong into a “livable city” by focusing on low-carbon emission transformation and enhancing the use of “cleaner energy”. Yet her policy initiatives have come under fire from environmental groups.
Undeniably, developing renewable energy sources is instrumental in easing climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Hong Kong is not outstanding in terms of the use of renewable energy. Currently, 70 percent of our city’s electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, and the bulk of the rest by nuclear power, with renewable energy only accounting for 1 percent of our total energy production.
In fact, according to the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan 2030+ announced by the government in January this year, it is estimated that between now and 2030, our city has the potential to increase the share of renewable energy in our total energy production to 3 to 4 percent.
What the 2030+ plan didn’t tell us is that our government has remained rather vague when it comes to the positioning of the development of renewable energy, nor does it have a clear goal in facilitating the use of clean energy either.
Just like any of the previous ones, this year’s policy address also didn’t make any solid promise over the development of renewable energy in Hong Kong.
That said, I believe that in the long run, the government should set a clearer and higher goal in raising the proportion of renewable energy in our total energy generation, and formulate a comprehensive policy framework in dealing with climate change.
For instance, the administration can study the feasibility of extending the ongoing pilot scheme of installing solar panels in our reservoirs to other public facilities such as footbridges with roofs, landfills and rock slopes in order to foster solar energy generation across the territory.
On the other hand, given that residential and commercial buildings account for 90 percent of our total electricity consumption and constitute the prime source of greenhouse gas emissions, I urge the administration to take the lead in promoting energy saving in buildings by enhancing the “green performance” of government premises, public housing estates and office buildings of public organizations.
Last but not least, the government should also raise the environmental protection requirements for newly completed buildings in a step-by-step manner, tighten the energy efficiency standards in the existing Code of Practice for Energy Efficiency of Building Services Installations, as well as shorten the current 10-year cycle of commercial building energy audit.
In order to make our city truly livable, our government must demonstrate to the international community its resolve in reducing carbon emissions.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 17
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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