Email this article
SEN's speech at Climate Summit for Mayors in Copenhagen (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at a roundtable session of the Climate Summit for Mayors in Copenhagen on "Low carbon transport - Mass transit and green vehicles" today (December 15, Denmark time):

     I am most delighted to join this session to share with fellow panelists Hong Kong's experience in low carbon transport. First, let me give you a sketch of the transportation system in Hong Kong.

A highly efficient public transportation system

     Public transport constitutes a lion's share of commuting in Hong Kong.  We are a city of 7 million populations, frequented by a high traffic of business visitors and tourists which equals four times (Note 1) our population.  About 90 per cent of our commuting, or over 10 million passenger trips per day, are by public means.  These passengers are serviced by our fleet of over 35,000 taxis, public buses and light buses, in addition to our extensive rail network which together make a highly efficient public transportation system.  As a result of this, our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from our road transport sector is less than one tonne per capita each year, significantly below the figures for most of the developed economies. (Note 2)

     We have an extremely low car ownership rate in Hong Kong.  The number of cars per 1,000 population is about 83, which compares favourably with many developed and developing economies.

     The backbone of Hong Kong's transport system is our extensive railway network.  Opened in 1979, our railways play a vital role in meeting the transportation needs of our city commuters.  The network now has a total rail length of over 200 kilometres, carrying about 3.6 million passenger trips every day and accounting for bout 35 percent of domestic public transport and some 62 percent of the land-based cross-boundary passenger trips.  Coupled with our fleet of buses, double-deckers, single-deckers, as well as the red and green public mini-buses, the railway network has been the most popular public transportation means for Hong Kong residents and visitors alike - and we keep expanding the network.  Apart from adding new lines to service transport within the city, we are also building an express line that will link Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, in 48 minutes.  The HK $66.8 billion project will also connect Hong Kong with the 16,000-kilometre express rail network of Mainland China.

The key factors

     The popularity of public transport in Hong Kong is by no means an accident.  We took a decision in the 1970s to make railway the mainstay of our city's public transportation system.  Efforts are constantly made to upkeep the quality and extend the coverage of our rail network, as well as integrating it with the other public transportation modes by enhancing connectivity.

     Obviously, price is a crucial factor in determining the usage of our public transportation system.  Fares on most of the rail and bus trips are relatively low compared with other big cities in the world.  Besides, thanks to the innovation of our entrepreneurs, we introduced an Octopus card system in 1997, a micro-chip enhanced cash card that can be used to pay the fares on all public transportations, thus ensuring commuters travel at great ease.  In sum, it is price differentiation, quality of service and it is the ease of use that drive passenger flows to the public sector.

Greening the road transport

     You may think that with such a high-penetration public transportation system, officials like me could just sit back and leave our transportation sector alone in our climate solution.  I don't have such a luxury.  The fact is, in tackling another pressing environmental problem in Hong Kong, i.e. air pollution, we found a solution which could possibly serve a dual purpose of also further suppressing the GHG emission from our transport sector - the electric vehicles (EVs).

     Even in its current developing state, the EV technology perfectly fits cities like Hong Kong.  The total area of our city is 1,000-sq-kilometres, but only 25% is built up area. The majority of private vehicle usage involves short range urban travel, which means the current limitations for EVs on its driving range is less of a challenge to the majority of commuters in Hong Kong than to those in other cities.  Setting up of charging infrastructure cause little hassle for us, thanks to our compact city layout and the fact that most of our parking spaces are enclosed in well-managed carparks in multi-storey buildings.

     The question for our government is very simple: are we in or out of the EV formula.  Since, Hong Kong as a small market and driving on the right - or should I say "wrong" - side, we cannot just sit there to wait for the EVs to come.  It did not take us long to make up our mind.  If you're a reader of newspapers in Hong Kong, youˇ¦d find me making numerous visits to Tokyo and Shenzhen to chase after the EV manufacturers to secure the cars for Hong Kong.  Our strategy is simple.  Since charging and driving range are not insurmountable problems for our city, the one thing missing in our EV formula is the cars.

     In the coming year, we have secured initially a minimum of 200 EVs from the Japanese private car manufacturers, Mitsubishi and Nissan. We have recently completed a trial of Mitsubishi "i-MiEV" and the testing results are positive.  Three "i-MiEV" cars, hot off the production lines, have recently been delivered to the Hong Kong Government and we are awaiting more.  We have also completed a trial on BYD's plug-in hybrid vehicles. And our target is not just limited to private car manufacturers.

     Apart from fostering closer collaboration with EV manufacturers, the Hong Kong Government provides financial incentives for EV buyers through waiver of First Registration Tax - an equivalent of up to 50 percent of showroom price - and promotes the setting up of charging network.  We have also joined the C40 EV Steering Committee to join hands with our international partners to give a concerted push on the progress.  Hong Kong will continue to encourage vehicle manufacturers to provide their cleaner vehicle models to Hong Kong market.  Our Financial Secretary also personally chairs a Steering Committee to bring together all the stakeholders concerned to pick their brain on the way Hong Kong should go about in promoting EVs.

     This is an outline of our low carbon transport.  I look forward to further exchanges with fellow panelists in a while. Thank you.


Note 1:  The total number of visitor arrival in 2008 stood at 29.5 million, according to figures released by Hong Kong Tourism Commission.

Note 2:  The corresponding figures for major developed countries are: UK (2.0 tonnes), USA (5.3 tonnes), Denmark (2.3 tonnes), Australia (3.3
tonnes), Japan (1.7 tonnes).

Ends/Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Issued at HKT 22:34


Print this page