The Chief Executive of Hong Kong and Secretary for the Environment,
We are a group of youth and students representing Asia Climate Rally in Hong Kong, working in collaboration with various student organizations and entities. We are writing this letter because we believe the government of Hong Kong SAR should take more actions to decrease carbon emissions within Hong Kong, as it is currently not doing enough to meet the challenges and threats presented by the global climate crisis.
While the world is currently battling one of the largest pandemics in recent history, we should not forget that a much larger and much more threatening emergency is underway; the climate emergency.
Hong Kong saw its warmest year on record in 2019, and its summers and winters are consistently becoming warmer each year. Seasonal typhoons are becoming more vicious, with Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018 being the most intense one in the city’s history. Besides higher temperatures and more extreme weather events, Hong Kong is especially susceptible to sea-level rise, and many low-lying regions such as Tai O and Tseung Kwan O around the city are at risk of flooding. Hong Kong’s food security is also at risk, as well as the city’s public health which would be threatened by climate change due to an increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. All of these impacts come not only with a toll on human life, but also a huge economic cost that could severely threaten the economic prosperity Hong Kong has enjoyed for generations.
Therefore it is clear that we must act with urgency to mitigate climate change by reducing our carbon emissions and meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement to keep average global temperature rise well below 2 C. Yet, the government of Hong Kong is not doing nearly enough to ensure it will achieve its stated responsibility of cutting emissions. Not only is the city on a trajectory to not meet the targets it has set for itself by 2030 (e.g. per capita emission of between 3.3 to 3.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent), but those targets—even if achieved—are not sufficient to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.
Unless the government of the Hong Kong SAR plans to fail in its responsibilities towards its citizens and the world at large, the following steps must be realised as soon as possible.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets
- A dedicated climate authority must be structured to set, monitor, and review targets for mitigation. Such authorities exist in neighbouring cities such as Singapore, Tokyo, and Seoul, but in Hong Kong the matter of climate action is left to the Environment Bureau, the Steering Committee on Climate Change, and the Council for Sustainable Development, causing a dilution of leadership and uncertainty regarding who is responsible and accountable.
- 2030 emissions targets for the city must be reconsidered. The current targets set by the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan 2030+ fall behind the necessary targets for a 1.5 C increase by 78%.
- Energy Generation
- Utilise more renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels completely. Current plans indicate a transition is underway to replace coal-fired power plants with natural gas ones, but there is no clear plan with regards to phasing out these fossil fuels entirely with renewable sources (a necessary step for achieving the above emissions targets).
- Utilise the neighbouring region’s renewable energy capacity. The renewable energy generating capacity target for 2030 is set at 3-4%, which is incredibly low in absolute terms and comparison to nearby cities. Hong Kong could pioneer smart grid solutions which extend beyond the city’s borders to utilise and support the neighbouring region’s renewable energy capacity if it were serious about doing so.
- Place new tariffs and incentives accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.
- Energy Efficiency and Consumption
- Reform the building efficiency policy and make it more stringent to ensure greater efficiency standards for new and existing buildings, otherwise risk failing to achieve the targets set by Hong Kong’s Energy Saving Plan for 2025.
- Power electric vehicles with green electricity only. Hong Kong’s electric rail transport system cannot fully be considered ‘green’ unless the electricity which powers it comes from green sources, i.e. renewable sources as discussed in section 2.
- Electrify Hong Kong’s buses. Although private electric cars are in widespread use, Hong Kong’s massive bus fleet still awaits electrification. Proper policies and incentives must be put in place to allow Hong Kong to transition from dirty, diesel-fuelled buses to cleaner electric ones.
- Introduce new bicycle lanes in the city roadmap. Cycling remains a dangerous and impractical alternative in downtown areas due to the lack of bicycle lanes, severely limiting more widespread adoption of bicycles in the city where emissions from vehicles are greatest.
Lastly, the HKSAR must be willing to explicitly place climate change action at the top of its priorities, and give this global crisis the attention and urgency it deserves by educating its population and informing them of the many ways individuals and communities can create change for a better common future.
Groups of Hong Kong Youth Climate Activists