Building resilience to extreme heat
The APCR is certainly a positive development. However, the new regulation fails to deal with other pollutants including NOx and PM. Both pollutants are known to be extremely harmful to the human respiratory system. Studies have confirmed that inhalation of these pollutants can lead to asthma attacks, respiratory infection and even premature death. 42 At the regional level, the introduction of the Greater Bay Area (“GBA”) initiative is expected to result in increased economic activity in the region, which already has three of the top-10 busiest ports in the world (Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou). The GBA initiative is a long term strategic development plan which comprises the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao together with nine municipalities of China. The GBA covers a total area of 56,000 square kilometres and has a combined population of approximately 70 million at the end of 2017. On 18 February 2019, the State Council promulgated the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong- Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (“the Plan”). The Plan outlines the Central Government’s vision to transform the GBA into a globally competitive hub for innovation and commerce, rivalling Silicon Valley and Tokyo Bay Area.
Hong Kong together with Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are named core cities under the Plan and are expected to be core engines for development in the region. Among other things, the Plan pledged to consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international transportation and trade centre. The GBA initiative creates a wealth of opportunities for businesses in Hong Kong but also presents a real threat to the city’s mitigation efforts. As a result of the GBA initiative, it is estimated that fuel consumption of ships in the region will grow by 80% above 2015 levels by 2030. 43 Hong Kong has been collaborating with the governments in the region to explore measures to reduce vessel emissions and promote clean shipping but the effectiveness of such measures remains to be seen. Buildings and infrastructure According to statistics, buildings in Hong Kong consume almost 90% of the city’s electricity. Over 60% of carbon emissions are attributable to generating energy for buildings. 44 Reducing energy consumption of buildings and infrastructure is therefore critical to addressing the problem of climate change and extreme heat in Hong Kong.
The construction industry has developed labelling schemes to identify low carbon construction materials. For example, the Carbon Labelling Scheme for Construction Products administered by the Construction Industry Council verifies the carbon footprint of four categories of construction products: cement, reinforcing bars, structural steel and ready-mixed concrete. Such labelling schemes encourage the use of environmentally-friendly building materials and contribute to the reduction of carbon emission. Separately, there is a growing (albeit slow) acceptance of the practice of retro- commissioning (“RCx”) by the building sector. RCx is a highly technical process but it in essence involves upgrading existing buildings to render them more energy efficient. The government has taken the lead in advocating RCx by publishing various guidelines which set out technical approaches that can be adopted to retro-commission air- conditioning, lighting and electrical distribution systems in existing buildings.
Green building Green building is another practice actively promoted by the Hong Kong government in recent years as a means to mitigate climate change. In a narrow sense, green building means the literal “greening” of buildings by planting more vegetation. However, green building is a much broader concept which encompasses the idea of reducing the environmental impact of buildings in order to enhance the health and well-being of the building occupants. Green building is not a new concept in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Green Building Council (“HKGBC”) was established back in 2009 in order to promote and raise awareness of green building amongst the public and promote the standards and developments of sustainable buildings in Hong Kong. The HKGBC administers BEAM Plus, which is a recognised system setting out the performance criteria for a wide range of sustainability issues relating to the planning, design, construction, commissioning, management, operation and maintenance of a building. BEAM Plus independently assesses building sustainability performance, and sets out listed criteria which allow building organisations and companies to review their performance as well as demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development.
42 https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/3011607/hong-kong-air-pollution- and-deadly-impact 43 https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/3011607/hong-kong-air-pollution- and-deadly-impact 44 Environment Bureau (2017) Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+. Available at https://www.enb.gov.hk/sites/default/files/pdf/ClimateActionPlanEng.pdf
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