The COVID-19 crisis is not a surprise in the breadth of its impact but only in its timing. We have long been warned by health experts that such a pandemic would one day disrupt our “normal life”.
Similarly, we have long been warned of the inevitable damage from climate change if we don’t develop a low carbon economy. Now, as we work to end the pandemic, we must fundamentally rethink our economic model to fit a low carbon-emissions world or suffer the consequences of increased weather events, heat, drought and sea-level rise.
Initiating decarbonisation action now is similar to a person walking up the wrong side of an escalator, a slow and arduous feat. Progress in reducing the average energy use in commercial buildings (measured in kWhr/sqm/year) has been lacking. Also, the number of private cars in Hong Kong increased by almost two thirds between 2005 and 2017. But despite the countering effects to decarbonisation, we must be aware that delaying further action now will inevitably lead to larger measures at much greater cost later.
Acting on decarbonisation today will provide fresh employment and business activities that can offset damage to the economy from COVID-19 and reassert Hong Kong’s place as a city committed to building better prospects for its own people and for the world.
Recently, Civic Exchange submitted recommendations for the HKSAR Chief Executive’s 2020 Policy Address. There are 9 areas of action that are immediately relevant, and are further detailed on Civic Exchange’s website:
- Grow low-carbon jobs and businesses across Hong Kong’s economy
- Identify climate risks and invest in climate resilience
- Grow Hong Kong’s clean energy sector and source more low carbon electricity from the Greater Bay Area
- Ramp up Hong Kong’s building energy efficiency
- Devise and implement a plan for Hong Kong’s adoption of low carbon mobility
- Make Hong Kong’s product use more circular
- Further improve Hong Kong’s air quality
- Make Hong Kong a more walkable city
- Improve urban spaces and metropolitan growth
Humanity needs to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to stand a reasonable chance of keeping global warming to 1.5C. We believe that Hong Kong, as an advanced territory with little exposure to hard-to-decarbonise sectors of industry, agriculture and long-distance travel, should be able to achieve net zero by 2050.
As a special administrative region of China, this year, Hong Kong needs to provide its mid-century carbon emission reduction target for China to submit to the UNFCCC Secretariat in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The Hong Kong Government should take this opportunity to develop a clear 2050 vision, supported by a comprehensive road map for short- and long-term action.
We should become the guiding light for future policy developments in all areas.
Transitioning to a climate-neutral economy and enhancing the protection of our biodiversity can deliver jobs, growth and improve the quality of life. A climate-neutral economy means a resilient society.
Let’s embrace our current crisis as an opportunity to transform our city into one that is low carbon and better for all