Speech by FS at "EU and Hong Kong: The Green Way Forward" forum (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Paul Chan, at the "EU and Hong Kong: The Green Way Forward" forum today (March 16):

Thomas (Head of the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao, Mr Thomas Gnocchi), Inãki (Chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Mr Inãki Amate), Consuls-General, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to join you today for the second Green Way Forward forum and to have this welcome opportunity to share with you our efforts in promoting decarbonisation and the sustainable development of Hong Kong. 

     I know the Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration has already given a detailed account of our efforts earlier this afternoon, and I would just like to supplement a few of my own observations here.

The Green Way Forward recommendations

     First of all, my thanks to the European Chamber and the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao, as well as Invest Hong Kong, the Business Environment Council, ReThink and the many others involved in producing the recommendations, which I am pleased to receive today.

     I know they cover four critical areas: finance, mobility, the city and stakeholder involvement.

     Rest assured, this Government will give them due consideration, including the essential roles that industry and business in general must play if we are to realise our environmental goals.

     Indeed, some of the recommendations are much in the same direction with our policy and practice. For instance, on fostering ESG capacity, the Government has launched a variety of schemes to help nurture local talents, covering pertinent internship opportunities for students as well as training for market practitioners and persons interested in the field. 

     In my recent Budget for the next financial year, there are further measures to support our green city development. For example, we have set aside $350 million for subsidising ferry operators to construct and test electric ferries; we will provide loan guarantee to encourage the tax trade to switch to battery electric taxis; and we will also allocate more resources for food waste collection. These measures underpin a government- and community-wide urge to step towards a greener economy and city life. 

Looking beyond

     But we also have a vision that is greater than simply turning Hong Kong into a greener city.

     Reducing carbon emissions and realising sustainable development are high priorities for governments, institutions and communities all over the world.

     Our nation is an active participant in and contributor to the process. It has set out its 3060 targets. As stated in the report of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, as well as the recent Government work report, a green and low-carbon economy and society are crucial to high-quality development.

     Our country is taking a multitude of steps and measures to realise this great goal: by developing green industries and promoting circularity; by better supporting green and sustainable finance; by participating in international co-operation on climate change; and much more.

     Hong Kong earnestly shares our country's vision. Behind the recent Budget's numbers and initiatives is the importance this Government places on high-quality development, and that includes transformation to a green economy. We will also position Hong Kong as an international centre for green tech and green finance.   

International Green Tech and GreenFi Centre

     Indeed, the global pursuit to carbon neutrality has created a huge demand for innovative and technological solutions to reduce, mitigate or offset carbon emission, ranging from environmental engineering and carbon sequestration to the production of more environmentally-friendly products. 

     The global market for green technology is forecast to reach more than US$410 billion by 2030. That's more than 11 times the total from just two years ago. This is a huge market to tap.

     Hong Kong, I'm pleased to say, has much to offer in this respect.

     More than 100 green-tech companies and start-ups operate out of Science Park and Cyberport. Many of them are applying innovative and cutting-edge technologies in their work, and they are very impressive. For example, one of the start-ups has invented bionic materials which were inspired by the biological structure of ants living in the Sahara Desert. Such materials are used as coating for the exterior of buildings, which can radiate heat and create cooling, thereby bringing down room temperatures by 5 to 6 degrees Celsius, consequently saving 30 per cent to 40 per cent of energy and costs. The enterprise was born out of our incubation schemes, and the HKSAR Government departments were the first to procure their products. Indeed, many of the start-ups we helped to grow are finding their markets and success overseas.

     No less remarkable is the cluster of green technologies enterprises and start-ups in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), in particular Shenzhen.

     For green finance, the opportunities are also boundless. It has been estimated that the green financing needs in Asia alone would reach US$66 trillion for the next three decades. For Mainland China alone, US$14.5 trillion.  

     We are a leading player in green finance. In 2021, green and sustainable debts arranged or issued in Hong Kong amounted to over US$57 billion, and our success has continued in 2022 with a much greater leap in amount.

     Just last month, we also issued a tokenised green bond, the first of its kind released anywhere in the world by a government.

     In short, ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong has what it takes to rise as a world leader in green-tech and green-fi. Our ultimate goal is to bring them together so that they can form a symbiotic relationship, which will support an integrated and dynamic green industry cluster with a complete value chain.

     To fast-track that promise, we will organise the International GreenTech Week later this year, inviting companies, and investors, from green technology industries around the world.

     I'm also establishing a Green Technology and Finance Development Committee. It will be tasked with producing an action agenda covering a number of areas.

     First, building a green technology ecosystem to attract top-notch enterprises or start-ups to set up their operations in Hong Kong. We will also encourage cross-sector collaboration to commercialise R&D outcomes and boost demand for green technology.

     Second, continuing to develop green financing, helping green projects and companies get the capital they need faster and easier.

     Third, promoting green certification and green standard setting and converging the Mainland and international standards. Indeed, we are working to develop a green classification framework for adoption in the market which will facilitate easy navigation among the Common Ground Taxonomy.

     Fourth, nurturing talents, through providing local training as well as attracting talents from all over the world.

     Fifth, enhancing collaboration with the GBA and the international markets.

EU enterprises and talent are welcome

     For our vision and project to materialise, it requires the right enterprises and talent. For this, we are eager to attract a world of enterprises and talent in green finance, technology and innovation.

     The Office for Attraction Strategic Enterprises, or OASES, is now fully operational. 
     Meanwhile, for the various talent schemes rolled out since December last year by this Government to compete to talents, we have received more than 30 000 applications, of which more than 20 000 have been approved.

     And, in my Budget, I introduced a Capital Investment Entrant Scheme. It will, I'm confident, help enrich our talent pool, while attracting fresh capital to Hong Kong. The green tech industry is certainly one of the areas to channel such new capital. 

     I am confident that a good many of the strategic companies, and professionals in Europe will find flourishing future to collaborate with us.

     Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong is committed to promoting sustainable development. And we are eager to work with governments and businesses of the EU in building a bright, green new world.

     I wish you the best of sustainable business in this year of promise and opportunity for us all.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, March 16, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:42