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Speech by SEN at Opening Ceremony of Climate Dialogue - Low Carbon Cities for High Quality Living (English only)

     Following is the speech given today (November 3) by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Opening Ceremony of Climate Dialogue íV Low Carbon Cities for High Quality Living:

Christine (Loh), Douglas (So), Mr Sun, Ms Liang, Martin (Lees), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     I am very honoured to be here today to welcome guests from around the world for the two-day conference: "Climate Dialogue - Low Carbon Cities for High Quality Living".

     The conference we are opening today is very significant and meaningful.  Thanks to this - and the C40 Hong Kong Workshop - as the anchor, this week our city plays host to more than 30 climate change-related conferences and activities. They go all the way to business chambers, consulates, schools and universities and many other stakeholder groups. This is truly a climate change week for Hong Kong.

     Christine, please accept my congratulations for making the very best use of your line-up of top speakers on this subject. I think you have truly lived up to the pledge of the event being a low carbon one by deploying the speakers to different sectors of the community, addressing various stakeholder groups as well as the deepening community awareness of climate change.  

     The coming two days of discussions, under the themes of "Science and Policy Day" and "Policy and Action Day", bring together scientists, policy-makers, negotiators and advocates - those who drive actions.  If we had had such a strong and balanced representation of all these talents, perhaps the COP15 in Copenhagen last year could have made a bigger success.

     Scientists are indispensable members of the team. We need science to substantiate the evidence of climate change.  And, to those who still hold the view that climate change is a hoax, facts speak louder than words.  In the case of Hong Kong, average temperature has been rising at a rate of 0.12 degrees per decade since 1885 and the number of torrential rainy days has increased by 1.8 days per decade since 1947.  So, there is strong scientific evidence to support this.

     We cannot do away with the policy-makers.  They are the ones who look at the reality of the situation and balance interests among stakeholders and come up with concrete strategies and actions that are achievable.

     We need the negotiators to craft a deal, but more importantly, we need the advocates to testify to the true extent of the impact of climate change - how the glaciers and melting and polar bears are besieged by a degradation of their living environment.  And we need the advocacy element to translate the often difficult scientific languages and policy jargons into passionate messages that can be easily understood by the men in the street, students at schools, and ordinary people who can make changes, like you and me.  

     In devising Hong Kong's Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, a consultation document we rolled out in September this year, this is exactly the same kind of thinking process we have thrown in: the science, the policy deliberation, the internal debate (which is kind of a negotiation) and, the communicating of the language to the public. We are still in that process, talking to our people on:  

- Whether our proposed target of a 50-60 per cent carbon intensity reduction by 2020 is too high, too low, or about right? The reduction will be translated into an actual emission cut of 19-33%. Is this sufficiently aggressive enough to bring Hong Kong into a greener and low carbon city?

- Whether our proposed package of measures, which is primarily focused on cutting emissions from buildings through enhancing our energy efficiency and revamping our fuel mix, is acceptable?

- Whether our target to increase the share of Electric/Hybrid Vehicles among our car fleet to 30% by 2020, and within the same timeframe to increase the share of electric/hybrid buses and trucks to 15% of the entire fleet, is achievable?

- Whether our cities have fully appreciated the areas of vulnerabilities and are ready for these challenges brought about by climate change?

     The "father of global warming", James Hansen, could not have been more right when he says, and I quote, that "the problem (of climate change) demands a solution with a clear framework and a strong backbone. Yes, I know that halting and reversing the growth of carbon dioxide in the air requires an 'all hands on deck' approach - there is no 'silver bullet' solution for world energy requirements.  People need to make basic changes in the way they live. Countries need to cooperate. Matters as seemingly intractable as population must be addressed. And the required changes must be economically efficient.  Such a pathway exists and is achievable."

     So, ladies and gentlemen, let us all put our hands on deck in our search for that "achievable" pathway. I believe this is exactly what this conference is about.

     May I wish this conference every success and I hope this will also put climate change high on the agenda, not just within the Hong Kong community but also in this part of the world. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:25


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