For the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, I hope that the Chief Secretary could boldly, without hesitation, lead other relevant departments to more appropriately address climate change.
Environmental policies have always been the subject of my concern. Late last year, the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement, which has been described as a turning point in the history of mankind for responding to climate changes and environmental issues. Comparatively, the HKSAR Government have only proposed the 2020 emission reduction targets in 2010, however, they have so far yet to revise any target in response to global climate changes. Apparently, it has failed to keep up with the latest standard and rhythm of the international community. This year’s Policy Address has “upgraded” the inter-departmental committee and chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration in order to tackle climate issues. Nevertheless, the Government have merely concentrated on reducing Hong Kong’s carbon intensity by 50%-60% (with the level in 2005 as the standard) by 2020. Did they express enough foresight and determination in response to the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement agrees the target by keeping the increase in global average temperature within 2℃ above the preindustrialization levels. Besides, it strives to limit the average temperature increment to 1.5℃. The successful implementation and execution of the Paris Agreement hinges on the joint efforts of different communitities, which eventually comprising of Hong Kong as it is one of the international metropolis. The Secretary for Environment mentioned that he would consult with various sectors to set a post-2020 carbon reduction target for Hong Kong and formulate related measures accordingly
Set 2020 carbon reduction targets promptly
However, have the Government actually implemented any specific scheme and demonstrate various projections and responsive programs to the public in details? It was not until last year that the Government unveiled the Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong’s Built Environment 2015-2025+ and the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015. But these reports simply described several Government’s responsive efforts and its aim for reducing Hong Kong’s overall energy intensity by 40% by 2025. In January this year, in reply to my oral question in the Legislative Council Meeting addressing climate changes, the Government only focused on citing the contents within the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015,which has been released before the 21st Conference of the UNFCCC. Moverover, not much details were recognized.
Tackling climate changes is not a new issue for today. It emerged long before the last UN conference on addressing climate changes, which proposed at least seven years ago. Today, the Government is telling us that the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015 is meant to bring together awareness within the Government. Has it not already fallen too much behind? Do we have to wait until the melting of the Arctic glaciers causing the sea levels to rise before the Government can get together such awareness internally to help society strengthen its awareness and actions? Perhaps the reality is that the society’s awareness and actions on this issue have already outpaced those of the Government. Six years ago, the Government appointed a consulting firm to assess the impacts of climate changes in Hong Kong, and to make recommendations on the long-term strategies as well as to takemeasures for lessening greenhouse gas emissions and climate change adaptation. Among the 1,000 plus written submissions received, almost all respondents perceived the frequent occurrence of extreme weather conditions in Hong Kong, such as hotter summers and more rainfall.
The Government’s piecemeal response measures
Since 2010, the Government has introduced piecemeal measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate changes, for example, in 2010, the specifications of biodiesel for motor vehicles were enacted with statutory control by legislation; in 2011, the HK$300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund was established to support the testing of green and innovative technologies applicable to the transportation industry, comprising of electrical and hybrid vehicles; in September 2012, the Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance came into force to promote energy efficiency of building services installation; in late 2014, the carbon footprint repository was launched; and in 2015, a three-year programme was completed to conduct energy-cum-carbon audits for 120 government buildings and public facilities.
However, for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, I hope that the Chief Secretary could boldly, without hesitation, lead other relevant departments to address climate changes more appropriately. I understand from the Government’s recent reply to my oral question that in addition to steering and coordinating the work on climate changes within the various government bureaus and departments, the new Steering Committee on Climate Change chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration will also discuss Hong Kong’s new carbon reduction targets beyond 2020 and study how to enhance public awareness on climate change. Furthermore, the committee will draw reference from the latest developments in international climate agreements when formulating the carbon reduction targets beyond 2020.
In late January this year, the temperature in Hong Kong fell to 3.1°C, the coldest in 59 years since 1957. For general public, whether they are young or middle-aged adults born before 1960s, I believe that it was probably the first time they ever experienced such coldness, given that Hong Kong is in the temperate climate zone. The feeling, though novel, is sounding the most real alarm that extreme weather is imminent, and it is no longer something we just read from newspapers or see in documentaries on television. It is really something that we can feel personally.
I hope that this year or in the years beyond, the world will not repeat the experience it had in 2015, the warmest year on record since 1850.