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SEN's speech at 2nd International Conference on Climate Change 2009 (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change 2009 today (October 7):

Good morning, distinguished guest speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

     It is indeed my great pleasure to join you this morning to start this three-day conference. It is an important one, particularly as national leaders are busy preparing themselves for the Copenhagen meeting in December. I am sure this conference will help us build stronger consensus and share experience in mapping out strategies to combat climate change.  I would like to extend my warmest welcome to those speakers or attendees coming from overseas.  The purpose of showing this film to you, in addition to bringing out the green message, is that these are places that you can go at the margin of the conference.  


     As a Government and as individuals, reducing carbon emissions through our policies and our daily living is no more a matter of choice, but an obligation and a must.  There is no luxury for lingering debate. It is time for action - how we can all act on and react to this global challenge before it is too late.  

     The Government has made clear our vision to transform Hong Kong into a low carbon economy based on low energy consumption and lower pollution. Reducing our greenhouse gas emission level has become a key part of our environment and economic development strategy.  Although Hong Kong is a service-based economy and a relatively small city, and hence we are enjoying a relatively low per capita carbon footprint, we are still seeing huge opportunities and potential in becoming a much lower carbon city.

     Our strategy is to take a multi-pronged approach - locally, regionally and as well as internationally - to cut back greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy consumption with practical actions. Underpinning our strategy and actions is our firm commitment to a reduction target in energy intensity of 25% by 2030 as compared with 2005.  

Low Carbon Economy V Enhancing Energy Efficiency

     Improving energy efficiency, using cleaner fuel and reducing reliance on fossil fuels are the main routes to drive down our local carbon footprint.  

     We have long been focusing on enhancing our energy efficiency, and in fact Hong Kong has achieved not too bad a score card as it was ranked by a Forbes survey conducted last year as the fourth most energy efficient economy among 75 economies over the world.  Our energy intensity dropped by 13% between 1995 and 2005.  Building on our ongoing efforts, the Government is now in the process of rolling out a series of policy initiatives to further enhance our overall energy efficiency.  A key initiative is the introduction of Building Energy Efficiency Scheme in April this year.  Our local attention being drawn to buildings is self-evident with 89% of our energy consumption actually coming from buildings. Under the scheme, the Government has committed $450 million to provide grants on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis to support and subsidise building owners to carry out energy-cum-carbon audit and energy efficiency projects at their buildings.  So far, the response has been overwhelming.  We believe the impact will be more apparently felt as more and more people, households and enterprises are joining the scheme, especially when they realise that we can all reduce our carbon footprint by using energy smarter and at the same time save money on electricity consumption.  

     On top of this, we are setting good examples by promoting energy efficiency in Government buildings.  Apart from allocating an additional $130 million in this year's Budget to enhance energy efficiency of government buildings and public facilities, we are allocating another $450 million to carry out improvement works for enhancing a green and sustainable environment in government buildings.  We are investing $1.6 billion to build a district cooling system for buildings in the new Kai Tak development area, which will help substantially reduce energy consumption related to air-conditioning.

     To provide further impetus, we will soon be introducing legislation on Building Energy Codes to set out the mandatory requirements for building energy efficiency, as well as introducing legislative amendments for including electrical appliances into the second phase of the Mandatory Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme.

     The important point about all these initiatives is that not only will they bring along environmental benefits, they will also provide new green business opportunities that will drive a more sustainable, low carbon environment to Hong Kong. Together with the money already assigned for upgrading government buildings, the new building energy efficiency measures combined will open more than HK$1.5 billion worth of business opportunities in Hong Kong, in particular for building services and equipment and green product suppliers.  

Low Carbon Economy V Cleaner Energy

     Let's look at our energy sector reform. The energy sector alone contributes 63% of Hong Kongs carbon emissions. To reduce power sector emission, we have been promoting the use of cleaner energy.  Since 1997, we have banned the construction of coal-fired power generation units in favour of cleaner gas-fired units.  The supply of natural gas guaranteed under the Memorandum of Understanding on energy co-operation, which we signed with the National Energy Administration last August, enables the local power generation sector to raise the share of natural gas in domestic electricity generation.  At present, the Administration is consulting on the notion of changing our fuel mix, e.g. with substantial reduction in coal burning, and increase in the use of natural gas to power around 50% or even more of our local electricity generation.  This will contribute significantly to the reduction of emissions from the power sector, and have the added benefit of improving regional air quality.

     Other unconventional sources of cleaner energy are being explored.  It will be of interest to note that the Administration has jointly commenced with the Hong Kong & China Gas Co Ltd, a substantive scale project to recover and use methane gas from landfills as fuel.  Waste-to-energy incineration with the use of state-of-the-art technology is another area being actively studied.  The possibility of developing large-scale renewable energy such as off-shore wind farms are being explored with our power companies.  A wider usage of renewable energy might be constrained by Hong Kong's size and geography.  There is however no reason or constraints why we cannot look beyond our boundary and work with our neighbouring province, Guangdong.

Low Carbon Economy V Green Transportation

     Turning to the land transport sector, which contributes about 16% of the local greenhouse gases emissions, actions are also being taken to make our transportation system more environmentally friendly.  The coverage of the public transport network, especially railway networks has been substantially expanded during past decades.  The mass transit railway system has a daily patronage of up to 4.2 million passengers, capturing a lion's share of our public transport commuting and there are plans to further expand this within and with our neighbouring Mainland.  Financial incentives are being provided to encourage the use of environment-friendly petrol private cars which help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve our roadside air quality.  Since April 2007, the Government has reduced the First Registration Tax of newly registered environment-friendly petrol private cars by 30% and for fully electric vehicles the First Registration Tax has been totally exempted.  

     And I must mention the exciting work that we are pursuing in promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs).  Since March this year, we have concluded MOU with two major EV manufacturers in Japan.  EV manufacturers have been incentivised by the strong policy push from the Government for the promotion of EVs and the setting up of charging infrastructure. They are also encouraged by the favourable physical environment of Hong Kong and the progressive stance in the promotion for the use of electric vehicles. Many of them have already expressed interest in introducing EVs into the Hong Kong market not just eyeing Hong Kong as their first market but also a market place where they can do co-branding of the new transport technology with a green city.

     The Government has also commenced the trial on Mitsubishi's electric vehicle from Japan and BYD's plug-in hybrid from the Mainland. And I am sure more will come. There has been a lot of community interest in them.  So far the testing results have been positive, and for that reason the Government has also announced to initially procure 10 units in this batch for deployment in different bureaus and departments, which will enable us to test the performance of EVs in a wider context under different operational environment.  


     Building a low carbon economy is not just a vision but also a reality. It presents opportunities for investment, growth, savings, sustainability and healthy living.  As the environment secretary, I am more than happy to embrace this new wave, for it allows us to figure the "green DNA" in every sector of our economy, and to broaden and deepen the scope of our drive for a better environment both in Hong Kong and also in our region.@

     For guests coming from overseas, while you are in Hong Kong, I would encourage you to go out to explore Hong Kong particularly our green suburbs or our country parks. As the coverage of these country parks as well as its biodiversity is expanding rather than shrinking. Hong Kong is surely a much greener city than just a concrete jungle. So go and feel it and enjoy. I am sure this would reinforce our common efforts in pursuit of a greener world.

     With these remarks, I would congratulate the launching of this conference and wish it every success. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Issued at HKT 17:25


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