Green Council (GC) is pleased to see that the Hong Kong SAR Government announced the “Hong Kong Climate Action Blueprint” in October 2021 which outlines a clear way forward with concrete steps towards decarbonisation in order to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
GC is a local non-profit, tax-exempt charitable (Section 88 Tax-Exempt Charity, Ref. No.: 91/6063) environmental stewardship organisation and certification body (HKCAS 027) established in 2000. We are fully committed to providing continued environmental education and training including sustainable development, decarbonisation, environmental management, certification on products and management systems, and sustainable procurement. On the international front, we are an admitted NGO of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Environment Programme as well as a Founding Member of the United Nations Asia Carbon Footprint Network.
Moreover, GC has been involved in setting benchmarks, defining applicable measurements, mobilising the community, and connecting key stakeholders in a way to achieve the goals of decarbonisation which should be measurable, proven and well recognised.
Extreme climate events have been occurring more frequently in recent years and the deterioration of the global climate environment has posed serious threats to human survival and development. The importance of global climate governance has become increasingly prominent. Among them, carbon emission reduction is a key link in climate governance.
In 2022, there has been a large number of hot topics closely related to "Carbon" in the financial and commercial fields, such as ESG, Green Finance, Carbon trade, SDG, etc. The trend of a low-carbon economy and carbon emission reduction is of utmost importance to society.
As an international metropolis, one of the world’s financial centres and an important part of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong needs to actively respond to the national call to contribute to climate governance and carbon emission reduction.
Climate change and carbon emissions are more than a commercial or financial subject and it is indeed a global issue. In this regard, Mainland China has put forward the "Dual Carbon Goals" as a strategy to combat climate change.
With this background, we hereby take the initiative to offer several recommendations for your team to consider on how Hong Kong would move towards a low-carbon metropolis. These are mainly elaborated through the following three levels:
II. Government, Enterprises and NGOs
III. Government and Community
With the strategic focus of decarbonisation, we put forward the following suggestions at the government level to pursue a low-carbon economy and lifestyle.
Lacking resources and focus on low carbon infrastructure
Currently, there are some enterprises or NGOs in Hong Kong involving in-depth research on decarbonisation. However, due to insufficient allocation of resources, these organisations find it difficult to play a key role in the decarbonisation process.
Proactive role of Government
Efficient allocation of social resources could be better done with reference to scientific principles so as to improve environmental quality and promote scientific and technological innovation, economic competitiveness and social progress.
The Government should set up a Decarbonisation Fund to foster efforts in decarbonisation through proactive support and designated subsidies to veterans, specialists, hands-on environmentalists, academics and NGOs. A task force should be set up to conduct pilot projects in a way to engage the general public for the same mission. As the role model, government facilities should take the leading role in joining the pilot projects to demonstrate public stewardship.
Mandatory Carbon Audit
All public and private organisations should be required to conduct mandatory carbon audits regularly to measure their carbon emission status to formulate plans and actions for decarbonisation. Training and capacity-building programmes should be arranged for the organisations. A local accreditation scheme should also be set up for carbon auditors. This will also facilitate the government in compiling a territorial-wide inventory of carbon emissions for setting policy and action plans.
Enhancement of green procurement standards
It is suggested that the government should improve the green procurement standards, expand the procurement of green and low-carbon products, and implement preferential treatment for clean energy vehicles and ships. Efforts should be put into expediting the development of more diversified carbon disclosures and low-carbon labelling schemes as a measure of carbon emissions for more products and construction materials. In this regard, low-carbon product benchmarking should be advocated for comparing the carbon footprints of green products with references to published standards such as ISO14040, ISO14020 and locally developed carbon labelling schemes.
On vehicle and ship tax, it is worth mentioning that the local logistics industry is one of Hong Kong's pillar industries, relying on its unique geographical location, with shipping being its main mode of freight transportation.
Therefore, the procurement of clean energy and new energy is very important for Hong Kong. At the same time, it is worth looking into carbon emission reduction-related tax policies and establishing and improving the price mechanism to promote the large-scale development of renewable energy. It is also important to coordinate the efforts of all relevant government departments including EPD, EMSD, and C&ED in streamlining the regulatory control regime and procedures for the use of new energy.
Subsidies for decarbonisation
The implementation of relevant subsidy policies would promote the project development and further encourage utility companies such as CLP, HKE, and Towngas; transportation companies like MTR, bus operators and ferries / marine operators and relevant bureaus and departments such as EPD, EMSD to share data with leading NGOs.
Subsidies are just incentive policies to induce these enterprises and NGOs to act. Well-organised engagement and education campaigns would further promote the idea of carbon neutrality and heighten the awareness of carbon emission reduction at the societal level.
Development of local carbon standards
At present, Hong Kong does not have a set of laws and regulations tailored-made to its own Carbon standards. Thus not giving Hong Kong enterprises and NGOs a clear basis to follow when implementing carbon emission reduction. At the same time, we should develop short and medium-term plans for projects advocating Hong Kong as an Asian or regional carbon centre, including but not limited to carbon credit trading, verification, certification, standardisation, regulation, green finance, East West carbon connectivity, certified emission reductions and global services. Ultimately making Hong Kong become a Carbon Exchange Centre.
We propose to study and use the existing carbon-related standards, systems and mechanisms in Mainland China and other parts of the world to formulate a set of policies and regulations as soon as possible. In doing so, we create new markets and opportunities by opening the door to new careers and jobs and bridging the gap between East and West.
II. Government, Enterprises and NGOs
The government, on one hand, provides policy support at the macro level and on the other hand, should create a platform and allocate resource support at the micro level.
However, in the real market, the collaboration among the government, enterprises and NGOs is of prime importance in achieving the dual-carbon goal. We may consider the following actions:
Data sharing to support “dual carbon goals”
Data sharing among government departments, public utility companies and NGOs to facilitate a two-way flow of data is a fundamental need.
Governments and public utility companies can learn from NGOs about research data closely related to society or data within organisations. While NGOs can better understand the current state of society by combining the data from government departments/ public utility companies with their data.
Furthermore, it also promotes the need of carbon neutrality with wider publicity. It is recommended that after these utility companies, transportation companies, operators and ferries / marine operators share their data with leading NGOs, they would buy in the ownership of measures and tools derived from these big data such as user-friendly apps, indexes, measurement methodologies as well as recognised and traceable carbon credit.
Setting up of carbon index
As a "wind vane" to measure and reflect the change in the carbon price level, carbon price index is of great significance to promote the long-term development of the market by:
· Providing fair and transparent price signals to the market
· Formulating trading strategies and models that meet the development goals of business entities
· Providing reference standards for climate change risk and assessment
· Providing a basis for policy formulation
· Laying a foundation for carbon financial products
The development of the carbon index needs the guidance of the government and to be operated by professionals in enterprises or NGOs.
Standardisation of ESG reporting and climate-related financial disclosure is vital for enterprises to adopt common practices for disclosing their performance to enhance transparency and facilitate benchmarking.
For the long-term financial development of Hong Kong, we need to develop a world-recognised carbon index and ESG index to support the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Hong Kong carbon trading platform and market.
III. Government and Community
In the long run, we should target our community to adopt a low-carbon lifestyle through the following actions:
Advocation of energy-saving consumption
Energy consumption is an important indicator that reflects the development level of a region and the living quality of people.
The behavior of residents not only directly affects energy consumption and carbon emissions, but also drives energy consumption and carbon emissions in industries such as construction, transportation and services.
The government can guide people on energy-saving consumption, launch promotional and awareness programmes, etc. with a view to reducing carbon emissions at source.
The Government should actively pursue and promote low-carbon construction through a life cycle approach covering low-carbon construction materials and construction processes. Legislative standards should be developed to mandate the construction industry towards decarbonisation.
At the same time, we should put more effort on publicity for green community and low-carbon lifestyle by guiding the people to adopt green and low-carbon concepts and carry out green and low-carbon creation activities with the full participation of the community. A low-carbon culture has to be deeply embedded in the hearts of our people for building a low-carbon community.
In brief, we should never underestimate the huge potential of the carbon market. Given the fact that we have a well-established legal system and trading platform with infrastructure as a financial hub as well as strong technological know-how, it is time to rise the challenge of establishing our own “Carbon Market” to foster “Carbon Opportunity”. We do believe that we can achieve more by committing to the right resources.
We trust that the above recommendations would help Hong Kong to march towards a low-carbon society.