There is a growing realisation that the world must take much more ambitious and urgent action towards decarbonisation to avoid potentially irreversible consequences of climate change. Early action on a pathway to net zero emissions is crucial to limit temperature rise within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Civic Exchange, World Resources Institute (WRI), ADM Capital Foundation, RS Group and others are collaborating on an independent initiative called “Hong Kong 2050 Is Now”. The initiative seeks to inspire ambition and mobilise action to move Hong Kong towards long term carbon neutrality. We aim to show via research and analysis how our city might mitigate the risks of climate change.
The collective action is in part a response to the October 2018 IPCC report highlighting that global annual emissions must be reduced to about half from the current levels by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. Further, this goal will only be achieved if net emissions are reduced to zero by around 2050 or any excess over this level of emissions is removed from the atmosphere soon after 2050.
The coming years offer a narrow window of opportunity for the global community to limit the average temperature rise and the new reality calls for more urgent and decisive action to reduce emissions.
Hong Kong is committed take action in line with the Paris Agreement. In 2017, Hong Kong released the Climate Action Plan 2030+ and committed to peak carbon emissions by 2020 and reduce then by 26-36% from 2005 levels by 2030.
HK 2050 is Now will advocate more ambitious climate policies for Hong Kong and aims to align diverse HK climate action, from policy to education to media and community engagement, all underpinned by sound evidence-based research.
Activities in Hong Kong have begun with data collection, analysis and scenario modelling. Deep dive research in the key contributors to emissions in Hong Kong plus suggested mitigants will lead this year. These include sectors such as power, the built environment, transport, but also lifestyle and nature based solutions since 40% of our territory is country park.
Policy change must be achieved also with community support, hence in parallel we are working to develop a broad platform to educate and inform HK about climate change and contributors as it relates directly to their lives.
A recent public opinion survey on people’s attitudes towards climate change in Hong Kong showed that only 16% believed it was more important that livelihood issues such as economic downturn or housing, or than health challenges. However, 84% of people said they thought climate would be significant in the future.
The includes direct outreach to varied communities, social media outreach, visualisations about how we would live in a decarbonised HK and what that would mean in terms of a better quality of life.
Indeed, public education is a critical component of how we intend to build HK 2050 is Now, leading to broader understanding of the issues and forming the basis for action.
As a high-density coastal territory in the storm-prone Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong has good reason to mitigate climate change. We are heavily exposed in terms of assets likely to be exposed to coastal flooding due to extreme climate events. Such losses will likely result in multiplied stresses in the financial sector. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s heavy dependence on trade for food, water and other goods means that it will also be sensitive to climate disasters.
Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts can also bring opportunities for Hong Kong to promote innovation, develop new industries, and reinvent itself to be more sustainable and inclusive. Hong Kong is a wealthy economy with a well-educated workforce and solid research and development capabilities.
We are well-poised to pursue accelerated climate actions and make necessary investments to ensure long-term sustainable growth. If the government provides clear vision and strong commitment towards carbon neutrality this will help invigorate the private sector and the wider society to take advantage of the inevitable transition to a more sustainable economy. We are betting HK 2050 is Now can help show the pathways to that transition.