Climate Action in EU and Hong Kong

Climate Action in EU and Hong Kong

15 July, 2011
EU Commissioner in Hong Kong
Civic Exchange climate change event with Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Edward Yau, Secretary for Environment Hong Kong SAR Government
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Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action stopped by in Hong Kong for a forum organized by well-known public policy think tank Civic Exchange. During her brief visit to Hong Kong, she had the opportunity to meet with Chief Executive Donald Tsang and Secretary for Environment Edward Yau as well as business leaders from the aviation and maritime sectors. As part of her trip in Asia, Hedegaard also met with government representatives in Korea to discuss about the collaboration between the European Union and Korea on promoting green growth and emissions trading, a scheme being planned for in Korea for 2015.

During the forum, Yau presented a number of initiatives Hong Kong is taking to aim to reduce carbon intensity by 50-60% by 2020 when compared to 2005, including incentives for renewable energy projects, energy efficiency regulations through the building code in Hong Kong as well as promotion of the use of electric vehicles. He emphasized the need to have regional collaboration in order to achieve a greener Pearl River Delta.

As the keynote speaker of the forum, Hedegaard shared her ambition “to see, in five years’ time, a Europe that is the most climate friendly region in the world” and the roadmap and challenges she faces to achieve this ambition. To achieve the goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, Europe has been encouraging the production of energy from renewable energy sources, stricter building standards as well as reduction of emissions in the agriculture and transport sectors. Interestingly, while the European Union is on track to meet emissions and renewable energy targets of 20% by 2020, the energy efficiency target of a 20% reduction by 2020 is not being met. Hedegaard sees energy efficiency standards as a key priority for European leaders and notes that funds should be targeted towards financing energy efficiency measures such as retrofitting buildings. She also continues to advocate for sending price signals to the market through a price on carbon so that people are “taxed on what they burn, not what they earn”. With an import oil bill of 210 billion Euros per year for Europe, Hedegaard emphasized the importance of the green economy in job creation, energy security and independence as well as improvement of air quality and reduction in healthcare costs. On a global level, Hedegaard looks forward to a sectoral approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also points out the need to invest in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects beyond the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) plus Korea in places such as Africa where the least developed countries are.

Commentators for the panel discussion moderated by Christine Loh, CEO of Civic Exchange included Thomas Ho, Chief Executive of Gammon Construction and Chairman of Hong Kong’s Climate Change Business Forum and Toby Kent, Associate Director of the Sustainability & Climate Change at PricewaterhouseCoopers Hong Kong. Kent pointed out the progress of environmental disclosure for the business community with stock exchanges in Shanghai implementing Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards while in Singapore and Malaysia, disclosure is moving from voluntary to mandatory status. Ho noted the need to move beyond traditional ways of production and the importance of business leadership and market demand in driving forward a greener future. Both commentators emphasized the need for Hong Kong to step up in the climate change arena to go towards a low-carbon future.

By: Karry Lai
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