FCC Panel: How Hong Kong Can Become More Sustainable and Fight Climate Change
While COP26 took place in Glasgow, Laurence McCook of WWF Hong Kong, KPMG China partner Irene Chu and conservationist Dr. Billy Hau spoke at the FCC on November 1. During this lunchtime panel, the environmental experts spelled out Hong Kong’s ecological toll and outlined its role in creating a more sustainable world.
The WWF ranks the city’s ecological footprint (measuring human demand on land and water) as the third worst in Asia-Pacific and 14th worst globally. To change that, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in her October 2021 policy address that Hong Kong will spend about HK$240 billion to reduce the effects of climate change over the next 20 years. As part of this plan, the city aims to stop using coal for electricity by 2035 and reduce carbon emissions from public transit.
This is a start, but not enough, according to the speakers. “I’m frustrated at times,” said Hau, a terrestrial ecologist who consults the government. “The Hong Kong government really needs to increase the policy significance.”
According to the speakers, the administration will need to work closely with the corporations that call the city home. For instance, Hong Kong can incentivise eco-conscious initiatives, such as sustainable supply chains and eco-conscious developments.
Hong Kong has also become an active borrower of green debt, recently selling nearly US$4 billion of green bonds to international investors in November 2021. Green bonds have become a popular investment tool in recent years, as they allow governments, corporations and banks to raise funds to use for environmentally conscious activities.
Sustainable finance practices — regulations, standards and investment products tied to environmentally and socially conscious outcomes — have also picked up in Hong Kong. “We are still at the beginning of that journey,” said Chu.
She added that corporations and banks still need to equate environmental factors, like biodiversity loss, to capital loss. “The better you can connect the two, the more you can introduce policies or incentives or rules to change behaviour,” said Chu.
Products that create monetary value now, such as oil, will mean little if the rest of the world has crumbled. “Without bees to pollinate your crops, you don’t have food, and without food, it doesn’t matter what you have in your bank account,” said McCook, who works as the Director of Oceans Conservation at WWF.
The speakers also urged the government, companies and individuals to recognise the threats against biodiversity. Hong Kong’s development projects directly impact the natural habitats of animals, including endangered Chinese white dolphins. Beyond construction, Hong Kong’s consumers have a significant impact on supply chain practices.
“The footprint of Hong Kong is much larger than the geographic area,” said McCook. He used the example of the city’s seafood intake. According to the WWF, Hong Kong is the world’s eighth-largest seafood consumer, consuming 66.5 kg per capita in 2017. Conscious consumers can impact the type of seafood bought and sold in Hong Kong by buying sustainably sourced products and expressing their concern to vendors.
But there’s reason to be hopeful, said Chu. “Because of COVID-19, there is more awareness and urgency to act because people associate the pandemic with climate change.”
Watch the full discussion below: