MOTION ON “FOSTERING THE ACHIEVEMENT OF CARBON NEUTRALITY”
Deputy President, I move that the motion, as printed on the Agenda, be passed.
Global warming has led to frequent occurrence of extreme weather conditions, and different places all over the world have successively experienced the unprecedented threats of floodings, forest fires and droughts in recent years. In the face of a series of environmental crises and international economic problems triggered off by global climate change, the United Nations has in recent years kept urging governments of various countries to proactively take effective actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their resilience against climate change.
As of January this year, 127 countries have undertaken to achieve carbon neutrality in the mid-21st century. Currently, the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Republic of Suriname have already achieved carbon neutrality, while other countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, France and New Zealand have incorporated the goal of achieving the same into their laws. In September last year, President XI Jinping undertook in his speech delivered at the 75th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations that China would endeavour to reach carbon dioxide emission peak in 2030, and strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. In his speech delivered recently at the 76th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations held this year, he reiterated this commitment concerning carbon neutrality, and announced that China would not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.
Hitting emissions peak or achieving carbon emission peak is the process during which carbon dioxide emissions reach the historic peak at a certain point of time, and then gradually drop from the peak rate. Efforts will then be made to offset carbon dioxide generated from human activities through such means as tree planting, energy conservation and emissions reduction, carbon capture and storage, etc. until carbon dioxide emissions finally reach net zero to achieve carbon neutrality. Achieving carbon neutrality requires not only a reduction in carbon emissions but also the concurrent introduction of a series of measures, such as afforestation, negative emissions technologies and carbon offsetting.
Our country has undertaken to complete the process from reaching carbon dioxide emission peak to achieving carbon neutrality in 30 years, the shortest time frame in the world, so as to bring about the world’s highest degree of reduction in carbon emissions intensity, and this indeed is a very daunting task. The time to reach carbon dioxide emissions peak and the peak level will also have direct bearings on the time to achieve carbon neutrality and its difficulties. The sooner the emissions peak is reached, the less pressure on the efforts to achieve carbon neutrality; while the higher the peak level is, the higher the technological level required for achieving carbon neutrality, and the higher the costs as well as the greater the difficulty in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Hong Kong has in fact achieved the peak of carbon emissions in 2014, and it was announced in the Policy Address last year that Hong Kong would strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. It will take us 36 years, a longer time frame than that taken by the country, to complete the process from reaching carbon dioxide emission peak to achieving carbon neutrality, and we have only 29 years left from the current year onwards. The Government has done a lot in the past to address climate change, and the Inter-departmental Working Group on Climate Change was set up in as early as 2007 to manage, coordinate and promote actions to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to introduce a series of policies and measures on reducing carbon emissions. However, the results of our carbon reduction efforts are less than satisfactory.
In 2010, the Government pledged for the first time to cut carbon intensity in 2020 by 50% to 60% from the 2005 level, but figures in 2019 showed that the carbon intensity that year was only about 36% lower than that in the baseline year of 2005, and the per capita emission was 5.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. In the report released in 2017 on Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+, it was pledged further to bring down carbon intensity by a larger extent of 65% to 70% by 2030, with the per capita emission reduced to 3.3 tonnes to 3.8 tonnes. However, in order to achieve the reduction targets, we must reduce the per capita emission by at least 2 tonnes in the next 10 years.
President XI has already stressed that it is an extensive and profound reform of the economic and social systems to achieve the peak of carbon emissions and carbon neutrality, meaning that it will definitely involve a considerable number of areas like sense of value, industrial structure, energy system, consumption pattern, and this is by no means an easy task. In order to achieve carbon neutrality in Hong Kong, we must make this a community-wide consensus, and then translate the consensus into actions. During the process, publicity and education are indispensable.
Take various Mainland provinces and cities as examples. Relevant publicity and education work has already been commenced proactively in these places to mobilize the participation of the entire community. For instance, the municipal governments of Shanghai and Shenzhen have persistently organized various thematic publicity activities like publicity week on energy saving, low-carbon day, world environment day, etc. to step up publicity on knowledge of low-carbon living and emission reduction measures. In the meantime, in order to guide citizens to actively participate in the implementation of carbon reduction initiatives, Shanghai is planning to introduce a carbon crediting mechanism, which seeks to quantify the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions brought about by different low-carbon behaviours, and record the figures thus derived as carbon credits accumulated in the account of each individual person. Carbon credits can then be offset in the carbon trading market and various commercial consumption platforms in Shanghai, so that everyone can be substantively rewarded for their low-carbon behaviours.
Extensive participation by enterprises also plays a crucial role in achieving carbon neutrality, but in Hong Kong, as of 6 September, only 491 organizations have joined the “Green Hong Kong․Carbon Audit” campaign by signing the Carbon Reduction Charter and undertaking to carry out activities in support of greenhouse gas emission reduction. I do believe that if the Government can give its support by launching a carbon emissions labelling scheme similar to the Mandatory Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme to promote public understanding of the rates of carbon emissions or carbon reduction levels of different products and activities, more organizations will be encouraged to actively take part in the “Green Hong Kong․Carbon Audit” campaign.
The Government has published three blueprint action plans on environmental protection policy this year to formulate overall strategies, objectives and measures for the popularization of electric vehicles, waste management and improving air quality. If various Policy Bureaux and government departments can take the initiative to formulate and announce their respective carbon reduction targets, measures and road maps, a good example will be set for all trades and sectors in Hong Kong, which will lead enterprises as well as the civil community to take concrete actions to better achieve energy conservation and emission reduction.
WONG Kam-sing, the Secretary for the Environment present, and LAM Chiu-ying, the former Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, are long-time advocates for energy conservation and environmental protection, and they have once engaged themselves in a “zero dollar electricity bill” competition to see who did better in environmental protection and energy saving. I am sure healthy competition like this is always welcome, and if other activities similar to this “electricity bill challenge” can be extended for the participation of more senior government officials, it will definitely trigger a wave of enthusiasm for energy saving and carbon reduction.
In the Policy Address last year, a proposal has been put forward to boost investments conducive to reducing carbon emissions, and build a low-carbon economy which is more resilient to climate change. In this connection, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has issued a circular to a number of banks to encourage their participation in a pilot exercise on climate risk stress test, thereby enhancing enterprises’ ability to cope with physical risk and transition risk under the climate risk. At the operation level, major banks have also introduced various low-carbon initiatives, such as actively promoting the switch to electronic statement services, so as to reduce paper consumption and the amount of printed materials.
With regard to boosting investments conducive to reducing carbon emissions, the Government has successfully issued green bonds totalling US$3.5 billion, which will not only promote the development of local green projects but also set an example for other organizations to follow. At present, green bonds issued locally have mainly focused on such projects as green buildings, waste and sewage treatment works, etc. In fact, green projects in other areas are also conducive to improving environment and reducing carbon emissions. The Government should conduct studies in this respect, develop relevant projects, and provide more incentives to encourage enterprises to expand the coverage of green finance, with a view to continuing to direct market capital to support green and low-carbon activities.
The Government has introduced a number of policies in recent years to focus on the promotion of green finance and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance, while the epidemic outbreak has also stimulated public awareness of sustainable investment. The Government may consider encouraging public participation by expeditiously implementing the issuance of retail green bonds, as this will not only be in line with the general trend but also deepen public awareness of such concepts as green finance, thereby leading Hong Kong towards the goal of achieving carbon neutrality as scheduled. Deputy President, I so submit. I will listen to views expressed by other Members on my motion. Thank you.
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese): President, I would like to thank Ms Elizabeth QUAT and the other 13 Members who have spoken on the motion moved by me, that is, “Fostering the achievement of carbon neutrality”. I wish to thank them for their input on achieving the goal of carbon neutrality, covering renewable and new energy, electric vehicle policy, carbon trading centre, green buildings, green bonds and civic education and so on. It is also good to hear the unanimous support for the motion. Although Secretary WONG said that the first phase of Hong Kong’s emission reduction target has been achieved, the task ahead is still very difficult. I hope that the Government will take action as soon as possible after listening to Members’ voices and raise the public’s awareness of emission reduction so as to ensure that our next generation can continue to enjoy a sustainable living environment. I so submit. Thank you, President.