A new report by a Hong Kong-based public policy think tank says that if action is taken immediately, the city has a chance to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a target set out by the Paris Agreement. The major recommendations from the report include decarbonising Hong Kong’s energy sector, improving building efficiency and transforming into a clean transportation system.
Released on Monday (June 29) by independent think tank Civic Exchange and the global research group World Resources Institute (WRI), the report outlines a roadmap for Hong Kong to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next three decades. The central finding of the report is that it is still possible for the city – which has severely lagged behind other countries in terms of climate action – to slash its emissions to zero if action against the climate emergency is taken immediately.
If such a target is reached, analysts say that it could bring about a more livable and fairer society for all Hong Kong residents, where pollution is kept to a minimum, healthy low-carbon lifestyles are promoted and where clean public transport is readily available.
According to the report, as much as 90% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by focusing on decarbonising three main areas of the economy. Firstly, completely moving away from dirty energy sources and towards renewables can save as much as 27 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
Improving building efficiency, on the other hand, such as setting stricter standards and incentivising retrofits, can potentially help to remove 10.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. To further slash 6.7 million tonnes of carbon, Hong Kong government policies need to enforce an electric vehicle mandate by mid-2030.
“Unlike other cities, Hong Kong doesn’t have a manufacturing economy so is relatively easier to decarbonize,” said co-author of the report Lawrence Iu in a statement.
But adequate action has yet to be taken. As of today, Hong Kong has yet to set any targets to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal that the United Nations’ climate body IPCC has reiterated as a must if we are to avoid the irreversible catastrophes as a result of the climate crisis.
Other environmental regulations have also come to a standstill, such as the recently scrapped proposed waste levy bill, giving little hope to solve the city’s enormous waste and pollution crisis.
“To achieve global net zero emission by 2050, all cities around the world, including Hong Kong, will need to step up climate action urgently,” said deputy director of WRI China, Wee Kean-fong.
If the report’s policy recommendations are fully adopted, the authors say that around 32 million tonnes carbon dioxide could be eliminated in Hong Kong between now and 2050. This would also usher in huge health and economic benefits, with around 26,000 lives saved due to cleaner air and an additional HK$450 billion (US$58 billion) in monetised benefits.
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