Government officials, business executives, financiers, investors, technologists, and climate action practitioners discussed Hong Kong’s adaptation and resilience planning in the face of climate change with scholars of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) at the University’s three-day Climate Adaptation and Resilience Conference (CARE2022) which was kickstarted on 10 December, 2022 and attended by about 1,000 participants.
While there has been a great deal of discussions on carbon emission reduction, adaptation – the kind of measures or solutions needed to mitigate the impact of climate change, was a relatively less-discussed topic in Hong Kong. CARE2022 is the city’s first large-scale conference aim to facilitate discussions among stakeholders from the government, academia, business and industries to strengthen Hong Kong’s resilience to climate crisis. A report based on the discussion will be published later to advise on the way forward.
On the first day of the event, Mr. Tse Chin-wan, Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr. Lam Chi-Man, David, Under Secretary for Development, Dr. C M Cheng, Director of Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), Mr. Shun Chi-ming, former Director of Hong Kong Observatory and Co-chair of CARE2022, talked about the latest impacts of climate change to Hong Kong and the nexus between mitigation and adaption while multiple Heads of Government Departments also gave an overview of their climate adaptation policies and projects. Prof. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization and Prof. Zhai Pan-mao, Co-chair of Working Group 1 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also addressed the audience virtually.
Their presentations were followed by two workshops. One on how infrastructure design, financing and innovation and technology (I&T) can help mitigate challenges posed by climate change; and the other on ways to tackle the urban heat island effect and extreme heat.
Working on Hong Kong’s Action Plan for Adaptation and Resilience
Prof. Guo Yike, Provost of HKUST, said at the welcome remarks that HKUST has been committed to developing sustainability solutions for society. “Research on severe weather is a major part of our work in this area. Our scholars, with a wide spectrum of expertise, have been putting efforts in many areas,” he said. “By collaborating with governments and other stakeholders, we strive to contribute at the policy level and help build a cleaner and safer environment for people locally, regionally, and globally.”
Mr. Tse Chin-wan, Secretary for Environment and Ecology gave an update on the policies and measures that how Hong Kong has been up to carbon neutrality. “The Government announced Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 which details four major decarbonisation strategies on the road to carbon neutrality: net-zero electricity generation, energy saving and green buildings, green transport, and waste reduction. Over the next 15 to 20 years, the Government will devote about HK$240 billion to take forward mitigation and adaptation measures to combat climate change through such strategies as energy saving, renewable energy, green transport, waste-to-energy facilities, strengthening coastal management, stabilising slopes and drainage improvement works, etc. Our quest for carbon neutrality can generate new opportunities for Hong Kong and promote green recovery. I call on the whole community to work hand-in-hand to build a sustainable future for Hong Kong,” he said.
Mr. Lam Chi-man, David, Under Secretary for Development presented the government’s comprehensive strategy to strengthen the adaptation capability of public infrastructure to combat climate change; and the Smart, Green and Resilient City Strategy for building liveable and sustainable communities.
Prof, Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist of HKUST Institute for the Environment and Co-chair of CARE2022, said, “Public sector adaptation projects serve ‘public good’ as they lower extreme weather risks for the whole of society. The private sector also needs to invest in the right areas to protect their assets”.
Climate science-based decision-making
Prof. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization and Prof. Zhai Pan-mao, Co-chair of Working Group 1 from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave an overview from a global perspective. World Economic Forum estimated the top two biggest risks for the global economy for the next decade are climate action failures and extreme weather events. According to the latest IPCC science reports, the world is neither on track to deal with current climate impacts nor prepared to deal with the imminent climate crises.
Nexus Between Mitigation & Adaptation
Climate change is impacting Hong Kong - the number of very hot days and hot nights is increasing. Heavy rain and storms are becoming more frequent, sea level is rising and storm surge risk is increasing. Dr. C M Cheng, Director of Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) said in his presentation, “Any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees means achieving global net zero emissions by 2050. We are getting dangerously close to the point of no return.” HKO’s responsibilities include continuing to develop better weather forecasting systems.
Hong Kong can meet its carbon target and timeline with hard work. Mr. Shun Chi-ming, former Director of Hong Kong Observatory, and Co-chair of CARE2022, said the government is aiming for carbon emissions reduction from 4.5 tonnes/per year on a per capita basis to 2-3 tonnes with the cooperation of business and society.
Building a resilient climate-smart city
During their co-presentation, Ir Wong Chi-pan, Ricky, Head of Civil Engineering Office, Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD), Ms. Alice Pang, Director of Drainage Services, Drainage Services Department and Ir. Dr. Raymond Cheung, Head of Geotechnical Engineering Office presented how they are climate-proofing infrastructure and improving preparedness for extreme typhoons, landslides and floodings with the aid of smart technologies, as well as beefing-up public education in collaboration with research institutes, community organisations and business partners.
Dr. Leung Siu-fai, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Mr. Kelvin Lo, Director of Water Supplies, Water Supplies Department discussed protecting and strengthening biodiversity in the face of extreme weather events, including promotion of local sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, as well as establishing agricultural park and agriculture priority area.
Residential electricity use consists of one-fifth of Hong Kong’s energy consumption. Ir. Ken Yeung, Chief Building Services Engineer, Architectural Services Department, and Ir. Henry Chang, Chief Building Services Engineer, Housing Department, introduced the green initiatives integrated into the design and construction of public housing, such as life-cycle Carbon Emission Estimation method (CEE), solar-energy installation and feed-in-tariff scheme, as well as integrated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
A three-day conference to co-create recommendations
The first day of the conference set the stage for further discussions on gaps and opportunities for stepping up actions in Day 2 and Day 3.
Day 2 (11 Dec), the Academic Day, focuses on technical discussions on important aspects of adaptation and resilience. Day 3 (12 Dec) is a Policy and Green Finance Forum with the participation of financial regulators, bankers, investors, industry leaders, and data technology leaders who will discuss climate risks, green finance, and green talent.
Climate Adaptation and Resilience Conference (CARE) is the first large scale climate adaptation event in Hong Kong co-organised by seven HKUST units. CARE aims to facilitate policy-relevant discussions among government, financial regulators, business and professional stakeholders, NGOs and academia to strengthening the city’s resilience to climate crises.
Organisers include the Institute for the Environment, Division of Environment and Sustainability, Business School, Centre for Slope Safety, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Division of Public Policy and Green Finance Research Project. The organising committee of CARE is supported by a Technical Committee which comprises scientists from various governmental departments dealing with climate change.