Saturday, 25 April 2015

A joint-effort on climate change

Chief Executive CY Leung

Few words have more impact nowadays than "sustainability". And there is no shortage of ways to consider the concept behind the word. One of the broadest and most popular definitions of sustainability speaks of development that meets our needs today without compromising the needs of tomorrow, and that includes tomorrow's generations.


Financial sustainability

Hong Kong is well known for its attention to financial sustainability, and for good reason. We are a leading international financial centre. We are also one of the world's greatest trading economies. And the future of Hong Kong depends on sustaining our advantages in these areas. If we are to maintain our hard-won place in the global economy, if we are to ensure that our community of some 7 million people continues to reap the benefits Hong Kong can offer, we must balance our short- and long-term growth. And we must do so without jeopardising the economic health of our future generations.


That said, we are no less committed to safeguarding our environmental advantages, to ensuring that the natural bounty we have been blessed with remains undiminished.


Environmental sustainability

Hong Kong attaches great importance to combating climate change, and we are putting in place the policies and programmes to do so effectively. Indeed, we have set a target to reduce carbon intensity by up to 60% within five years, compared to 2005 levels. This is, of course, easier said than realised. But I am pleased to say that we are on track to achieving it. We are doing so largely by implementing measures on both the demand and supply sides of electricity consumption, which accounts for some 70 per cent of our carbon emissions.


On the demand side, we are working hard to promote energy efficiency and conservation, alongside many others in the international community. We have tightened the energy standards of our buildings, which account for more than 90% of our electricity consumption. Noting that carbon audits are an effective means of understanding our carbon footprint and identifying appropriate carbon-reduction options, we have completed a three-year, energy-and-carbon-audit programme covering 120 government premises and public facilities.


We have also launched a carbon-footprint repository to help listed companies disclose their carbon-management experience and practices to the public. And, with funding support from the Environment & Conservation Fund, a CarbonSmart Programme was initiated three years ago in 2012. It provides matching funds for each private company to conduct energy-and-carbon audits. To date, more than 200 applications have been endorsed and the total approved incentive amounts to nearly US$450,000. A good start, and we will continue to develop the programme.


"Don't do as I do, do as I say." I'm sure we've all heard it and seen it in practice. But for my Government, we are determined to do as well as say. To lead by example. Over the past decade, we have achieved a 15% saving in electricity consumption in our government buildings. And we have recently bumped up that target - pledging to save another 5% over the coming five years.


To enhance energy-saving performance and green-building measures, we will conduct energy audits in major government buildings. We are also working with public and private organisations to expand our low-carbon and liveable built environment - to reduce, in short, Hong Kong's overall electricity demand.


On the energy-supply side, we have banned the construction of new coal-fired power plants since 1997. To achieve our 2020 target of carbon-intensity reduction, we will increase the proportion of natural gas in our fuel mix from the current 20% to 50% by 2020. The proportion of coal in our fuel mix will be reduced significantly.


We are also targeting our road transport, promoting the use of clean fuels for motor vehicles, as well as turning waste into energy.


There is a need, as well, to enhance our city's resilience to climate change. To that end, we are developing infrastructural facilities, together with the necessary institutional arrangements, to address the possible impact of climate change. We have comprehensive response plans in place to deal with extreme weather events and natural disasters. We have made strategic improvements to our sewage and drainage systems, launched scientific monitoring and research programmes, and established forecasting and warning systems to monitor changes to our ecology and our water resources.


Joint efforts

Climate change, of course, is a global issue. And we have long been working with the international community in this regard. Hong Kong is a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and is now on its Steering Committee. We have also taken part in United Nations' climate-change conferences as part of China's delegation. To respond to climate change regionally, Hong Kong and the neighbouring Guangdong Province have set up a Joint Liaison Group on Combating Climate Change. The group's mandate includes promoting scientific research and technology development.


In Hong Kong, an Inter-departmental Working Group on Climate Change co-ordinates and directs the Government's efforts on climate change.


In short, we are working hard, and well, but we have much yet to do, much yet to learn. Which is why I'm so pleased that Hong Kong is hosting this symposium, and that several senior members of the Hong Kong SAR Government are participating.


Hong Kong prides itself on being a world city, on our openness, on our close ties with the rest of China and the rest of the world. We are committed to working with them in the global battle against climate change.


I hope that the climate negotiations at COP21 in Paris will result in an agreement we can all rally around. Rest assured that Hong Kong will do its part, today and tomorrow.


Chief Executive CY Leung delivered this speech at the 4th Nobel Laureates Symposium on Global Sustainability on April 23.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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