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Speech by SEN at "Climate Action in Europe and Hong Kong - a Continuing Conversation" Forum (English only)

     Following is the speech given by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, on Climate Action for a Low Carbon Economy at "Climate Action in Europe and Hong Kong - a Continuing Conversation" Forum today (May 4):

Commissioner Hedgegaard, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. On behalf of Hong Kong, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Commissioner Hedgegaard.  I understand that this morning, you have joined a renowned congregation of representatives from consumer groups  from around the world in discussing how we could empower consumers in the green economy.  This session here provides an equally V if not more V important piece to the global climate action.  The continued dialogue between Europe and Hong Kong and, indeed, between different levels of the global community, be it among nations, regions and cities, is essential to the fight against climate change.  And I say this because climate change is a global issue.  It knows no boundary.

Ongoing Conversation with the International Community

     As an international financial centre, Hong Kong prides itself on strong Mainland and international connections and outlook in the many aspects of our city's economic development.  There is no difference in the areas of environmental protection and climate change.  As a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), we are among the 21 APEC economies to adopt the Sydney Declaration.  

     We are an active participant in the C40 Cities V Climate Leadership Group and have recently joined the Steering Committee to help chart the way forward for this inter-city effort to combat climate change.  In addition to hosting the C40 conference in Hong Kong last year, we will be joining the C40 Summit in Sao Paulo later this month.  

Building a Low Carbon City

     Underpinning our active outward engagement is the commitment and belief locally that Hong Kong, as a responsible global citizen, should play its humble part in combating climate change.  Due to the service-oriented nature of our economy and thanks to the compact city layout, the per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Hong Kong stands at about six tonnes, putting us slightly below the world average of seven tonnes per person.  But there is no ground for complacency as Hong Kong positions ourselves as a global city, we believe that greater prosperity will also call for greater responsibility.

     We have proposed to set for ourselves the target of bringing down our carbon intensity by 50-60% by 2020.  This target matches well and in fact surpasses the 40-45% carbon intensity reduction pledged by the Central People's Government in late 2009 in Copenhagen.  The adoption of such a progressive target not only demonstrates Hong Kong's commitment to become a low-carbon city.  It also reinforces our country's determination to face up to the challenge of combating climate change.  With the achievement of the target, Hong Kong's GHG emissions will see an absolute reduction of 19-33% in 10 years' time.  In order to achieve the proposed target, we need to formulate a multiple package of measures ranging from energy mix to energy efficiency.

Revamping the Fuel Mix

     In Hong Kong, GHG emissions from the energy sector accounts for two-thirds of our total emission.  Cleaning up the energy sector is therefore of paramount importance.  A host of measures have been taken by the Government to control the GHG emissions from this sector.  For example, construction of coal-fired generation units has been banned since 1997.  We have also started to raise the proportion of using natural gas for local electricity generation.

     Promoting renewable energy is another key area of our clean energy strategy.  Our geographical constraints have put a limit on our potential for solar and wind-powered energy, while hydro-power is off the map.  But Hong Kong will stay tuned to the technological progress in these two areas, not just in Hong Kong but also in the region.  The Government is also providing financial incentives to power companies to encourage the use of more renewable energy (e.g. wind and solar energy), and there are already PV panels set up for generating electricity for connection to power grids.  The local power companies are also actively considering offshore windfarm projects.  

     As a waste-to-energy initiative, a project of utilising landfill gas for towngas production was embarked in 2008 at one of our three strategic landfills (e.g. North East New Territories landfill), which can reduce 135,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.  The waste-to-energy sector therefore carries much potential as a source of renewable energy in Hong Kong.

     Our plan is to develop organic waste facilities in two phases by 2020.  On their completion, the facilities will have a total daily treatment capacity of around 500 tonnes of organic waste.  At the same time, a sludge treatment facility is also being developed with an ultimate capacity of treating 2,000 tonnes of sludge a day.  The Government is actively planning to build an Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) with a daily capacity of 3,000 tonnes.  Using advanced incineration as the core technology, the IWMF will reduce the volume of municipal solid waste treated by 90%, and  recover energy from the waste to generate sufficient electricity for some 100,000 households, achieving a reduction of half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

     Part of our new fuel mix formula is to increase the supply of imported nuclear from the current 23% to 50%.  We are in the process of re-examining the fuel mix in the light of the recent incident in Fukushima of Japan.  A safer use of nuclear energy is being called for but this should not deter the search for greener and cleaner fuel mix to replace the fossil fuel dominant power generation in Hong Kong.

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

     The biggest consensus within this community is a better use of our energy and energy efficiency is a key component of our strategy.  To further reduce emissions from our energy sector, actions have been taken to improve energy efficiency in built environment and electrical appliances.  A piece of new legislation was passed in November last year to mandate implementation of Building Energy Codes at new buildings and for building retrofitting.  This will avoid total emissions of two million tonnes of GHG in the coming 10 years.

     Given the fact that 90% of our energy is consumed in buildings, a clear target is to green our buildings by cutting their energy use.  To incentivize the public to join us on this front, we launched a $450-million Buildings Energy Efficiency Funding Schemes under the Environment and Conservation Fund last year. The funding schemes provide subsidies for energy-cum-carbon audits and energy efficiency projects conducted in communal areas of residential, commercial or industrial buildings.  Response to the schemes has been very encouraging so far.  We have already received applications covering 8,000 buildings (one-fifth of the total building stock) since the launch of the schemes, and over $270 million of funding support have been provided for the approved applications.

Greening the Road

     I will now move on to our transportation sector. Hong Kong has an efficient public transport system and low rates of car ownership.  In fact, over 90% of the daily passenger trips are made by public transport.  Our private car ownership rate is by far the lowest amongst developed economies.  Notwithstanding the transportation sector is still the second largest source of GHG emissions in the territory, accounting for around 18% of our total emissions.  We are therefore actively pursuing in promoting low carbon transportation.

     The Government has recently set up a $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund, which aims to encourage the transport sector to test out green and innovative transport technologies, with a view to improving our air quality and reducing our carbon footprint.  The Fund has started to invite applications a month ago. Valid applications could include a new vehicle type, equipment or machinery related to transport activities.   The subsidy will cover part of the product's cost, including installation if applicable.

     One of the subjects close to the heart of this Administration is the promotion of wider use of electric vehicles (EVs). We have been collaborating with different EV manufacturers to conduct trials on EVs and to introduce their EVs to Hong Kong.  In the past two years, we have already rolled out a series of measures, including total exemption of tax for car users to buy EVs, and expanding the EV charging infrastructure. We propose in this year's Budget that we will give priority to EVs when replacing cars for the Government fleet and expect to have an initial intake of about 200 EVs of various types in the two financial years of 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Next Ten Years

Low Carbon New Development Areas

     Looking into the near future, there are going to be exciting developments in both the West and East Kowloon areas.  For the former, it has recently been decided that the City Park designed by Foster + Partners is the preferred option for the development of this future arts and culture hub.  The area will be transformed into a magnificent park with a continuous waterfront, iconic cultural venues, colonnaded avenues, tree-lined streets and intimate lanes; green spaces offering tranquility. All these places and spaces are to be supported by a network of service roads below ground to facilitate easy walking, and a public transport system above. The whole area will be carbon neutral.

     For the old airport site at Kai Tak in East Kowloon, the Government will build a District Cooling System in the new development area.  It is going to be a very energy efficient air-conditioning system which consumes 35% less electricity as compared with the traditional air-cooled air-conditioning systems. We are also exploring the possibility to make it a low-carbon zone which allows only zero-carbon emission transportation modes.  This same model is likely to be repeated in other new development areas.

Our Future Strategy and Target

     The examples that I just talked about are illustrative of the spectrum of measures that are being carried out to start to build a low carbon city.  Certainly we have to build on and enhance our existing efforts to further reduce Hong Kongs carbon footprint.  The Government completed in December 2010 the public consultation on "Hong Kong's Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda" which encompassed a proposed action agenda in respect of maximising energy efficiency, greening road transport, turning waste to energy, and revamping fuel mix for electricity generation.  This does not only require government funding, legislation and policies but also private sector involvement as well as collective behavioural changes at the household, company or even individual levels.  
Concluding Remarks

     Climate change does pose an unprecedented and significant challenge for all of us.  It is crucial for Hong Kong and the rest of the global community to sustain future development by pursuing a low-carbon pathway.  Low carbon is no longer just an environmental policy as it now cuts across multi-policies.  

     As I mentioned at the beginning, climate change knows no boundaries.  Our efforts to combat climate change must be done in full collaboration will our neighbouring region, in particular Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta area and also with our Nation.  We are glad to see a common mission established with Guangdong to build a green Pearl Delta River area with a cluster of liveable cities which also supports the concept of a sustainable growth in this part of the region.  This very concept is not only part of Guangdong's development strategy but also enshrined in the recent 12th five-year plan.  We have seen actual collaboration on energy and environmental sides from the two places to work together.  So we believe this would set a good platform for Hong Kong to continue to be a green city but also hopefully a model for the greener region.  

     I believe that each step we take is a building block for a greener environment, a greener Hong Kong - and a greener world. Thank you!

Ends/Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Issued at HKT 19:57


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