Published: 18:33, April 9, 2024 | Updated: 18:51, April 9, 2024
HK can contribute to battle against climate change
By Law Man-wah

Hong Kong is a compact and bustling international metropolis facing significant climate risk. Climate-related risk is caused by climate change, such as damage caused by extreme weather events or a decline of asset value in carbon-intensive sectors.

In Hong Kong, we are facing the following climate hazards today:


1) Extreme precipitation events have become more frequent. The hourly rainfall record at the Hong Kong Observatory was broken several times in the last few decades, whereas in the past, it used to take several decades to break the record.

2) Over the past 100 years, the numbers of hot nights (days with a minimum temperature of 28 C or above) and very hot days (days with a maximum temperature of 33 C or above) in Hong Kong have increased, while the number of cold days (days with a minimum temperature of 12 C) has decreased.

3) Warmer air can hold more water vapor. The theoretical maximum water vapor content is given by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, which yields a 7 percent increase in water vapor in the atmosphere per 1 degree C of warming. An additional sea level rise will result in storm surges, and terrestrial flooding (rivers) are projected to increase because of global warming.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. Cooperation among different countries and regions to combat global warming is paramount, and Hong Kong can play its part in this endeavor

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has recognized the importance of managing these risks and has implemented several initiatives to address climate change risk and its effect on social life and the economy. Recognizing the urgency, the government launched the “Climate Action Plan 2050” in 2021. The plan featured four primary strategies for carbon reduction: achieving net-zero electricity generation, promoting energy-efficient and green buildings, advancing green transport, and pushing for citywide waste reduction. The four strategies cover the following targets and measures:

Net-zero electricity generation: Increase the share of renewable energy in the fuel for electricity generation to 7.5 to 10 percent.

Energy saving and green buildings: Reduce the overall electricity consumption of buildings through promoting green buildings, improving buildings’ energy efficiency, and promoting a low-carbon lifestyle.

Green transport: Achieve the long-term target of attaining zero vehicular emissions and zero carbon emissions in the transport sector before 2050, through the electrification of vehicles and ferries, and the development of new-energy transport and measures to improve traffic management.

Under the regulations implemented late last year, it is mandatory for asset managers in Hong Kong to formulate policies to assess and manage climate risks and opportunities, and disclose greenhouse gas emission data on their investment portfolios and investees.

In the Business Sustainability Conference Management Information for Sustainability, held on Nov 3, 2023, by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, I learned about a famous case of colossal economic loss because of climate change: the flood in the Xitan Hotel Beijing. One night in August 2023, because of heavy rainfall, one luxury hotel in Beijing’s Mentougou district was heavily damaged by floodwaters. This tragedy could have been avoided for the Xitan Hotel had climate risk been managed in a proper manner.

Sino Group integrates sustainable development through its “Green Living, Innovative Design, and Community Sprint” strategy. The group aims to obtain BEAM Plus and WELL certifications for all its new buildings in Hong Kong, while also actively supporting startups through its Sino Inno Lab. Its Sustainability Vision 2030 encompasses 38 targets, including renewable energy, plastic reduction, and economic-friendly construction. The group proactively endorses international initiatives like Business Ambition for 1.5C and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

An international research team led by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology researchers has achieved a significant breakthrough by developing an artificial intelligence model that can help mitigate global ammonia emissions from agriculture, thus helping moderate global temperature risk.

Hong Kong has no doubt made commendable strides in the area of anti-climate change in recent years. But there is room for further endeavors. I propose the following actions:

1) The HKSAR government should reconsider introducing a carbon tax. Putting a price on carbon emissions effectively factors in the environmental cost of pollution. Such a program could spur businesses and individuals to diminish their carbon footprints and channel their resources toward cleaner technologies.

2) Hong Kong should bolster its measures to weather the effects of climate change. Currently it is facing considerable threats from rising sea levels, severe weather patterns and heat waves, which could wreak havoc on both infrastructure and people. By integrating climate resilience into urban planning, Hong Kong could devise innovative solutions like green infrastructure, strategies for mitigating the urban heat island effect, and designs for sustainable built environments.

3) To truly turn the tide against climate change and secure a brighter future for future generations, the city must embrace as a nexus pioneering research and innovation in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In light of the urgency and scale of the global environmental crisis, Hong Kong’s climate policies require further enhancement. By enforcing a carbon tax and adopting other anti-climate change measures, Hong Kong has the potential to emerge as an avant-garde in the fight against climate change.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. Cooperation among different countries and regions to combat global warming is paramount, and Hong Kong can play its part in this endeavor. Given its advanced economy and significant carbon emissions per capita, Hong Kong is in a position to set a precedent. The moment of truth for effective action is upon our decision-makers.

To fuel our journey with renewable energy: That is very important indeed.

The author is the former head of financial management (general manager) of Bank of China (HK) Ltd, and director and deputy general manager of Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd.