Building resilience to extreme heat
Resilience is not a new concept in Hong Kong. The strategies of mitigation and adaptation have been implemented in order to build resilience against extreme heat and combat climate change in Hong Kong: 1. Mitigation – mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behaviour. 36 2. Adaptation – adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. 37
MITIGATING EXTREME HEAT
The government has taken the lead to adopt renewable energy in public infrastructure. For example, photovoltaic cells which capture solar energy are being installed in more and more public facilities such as roofs of footbridges and walkways, roofs of public piers and lights in parks and public housing. Solar hot water systems are also increasingly being adopted in sport centres managed by the government. Apart from solar energy, the potential of generating energy from waste is also being actively explored. The first waste-to-energy (“WTE”) generator in Hong Kong, T-Park, which captures energy generated from sewage sludge treatment, became operational in April 2016. A second WTE plant is being commissioned for 2021, and another large-scale WTE plant to treat general municipal solid waste is expected to come into operation by 2024. It is anticipated that renewable energy is going to be an increasingly important element in the design of construction projects in Hong Kong.
Transportation Another key source of carbon emission is transportation, which makes up about 16% of the total emissions in Hong Kong. 40 For years, the government has been implementing measures to cut vehicular emissions from motor vehicles. Apart from strengthening regulations in order to control emissions, economic incentives have been offered to promote the use of more environmentally friendly means of transportation such as electric vehicles. Measures have also been taken to regulate emissions by marine vessels in Hong Kong. A recent news report highlighted that marine vessels, especially container ships, are the leading source of air pollution in Hong Kong, producing most of the harmful sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) locally. 41 The Air Pollution Control (Fuel for Vessels) Regulation (Cap. 311AB) (“APCR”) was enacted recently in order to control SO2 emissions. Under the APCR, starting from 1 January 2019, all ocean- going vessels within Hong Kong waters are required to use a marine fuel with sulphur content not exceeding 0.5% by weight. Breach of the APCR carries heavy criminal consequences. The owner and master of any vessel using non-compliant fuel within the waters of Hong Kong will be liable to a maximum fine of HK 200,000 and imprisonment for six months.
The underlying cause of extreme heat is climate change resulting from global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide emissions lead to global warming. Therefore, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the prerequisite of mitigating the risk of even more extreme heat in the future. Transition to renewables According to a report published by the Environment Bureau in 2017, about 70% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions come from electricity generation. 38 The government has been trying to reduce coal-fired electricity generating plants in a bid to reduce carbon emissions. Some of the alternatives being explored include natural gas and renewable energy sources. It is anticipated that natural gas will generate about 50% of electricity in Hong Kong while coal will be reduced to 25%. Experts estimate that this will result in a 20% reduction of carbon emissions (using 2005 as the base). 39
36 https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/climate-change/what-we-do/mitigation 37 https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation_en 38 Environment Bureau (2017) Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+. Available at https://www.enb.gov.hk/sites/default/files/pdf/ClimateActionPlanEng.pdf 39 Environment Bureau (2017) Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+. Available at https://www.enb.gov.hk/sites/default/files/pdf/ClimateActionPlanEng.pdf
40 Environment Bureau (2017) Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+. Available at https://www.enb.gov.hk/sites/default/files/pdf/ClimateActionPlanEng.pdf 41 https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2175592/why-hong-kongs-air- so-polluted-and-what-can-we-do
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