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July 30th, 2015:

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opens low-carbon innovation hub in Hong Kong

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon attended a signing ceremony between Chinese health companies and Scottish universities in Shanghai on Wednesday before making the trip to Hong Kong.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially launched a centre in Hong Kong on Thursday that is partnering with a Scottish university to promote the adoption of low carbon and sustainable technologies in the city and the Pearl River Delta, which extends into south China’s Guangdong province.

The centre is being run in partnership with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), part of the University of Edinburgh. This brings together governments, businesses and universities to develop and implement low carbon innovations for sustainable economic development.

“This is the first education institution in the world to establish a low-carbon research and innovation centre in another country and I am delighted that it is a Scottish university that is leading the way and setting the standard,” said Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader and highest-ranking politician in Scotland.

“Like the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, the University of Edinburgh has a world-class reputation and I’m confident that this relationship will help provide Scottish companies with a route into Hong Kong and, through its strong links with China, act as a gateway into China.”

The centre is being hosted by the HKSTP in a partnership that is also designed to advance technologies in areas such as “smart cities”, which eye greater digital connectivity.

Their goals include working to “commercialise environmentally friendly innovations, information and communications technology and material, and precision engineering,” said Andrew Young, chief commercial officer of the company running the park.

“China produces 26 to 27 per cent of the world’s carbon, and Hong Kong is a key gateway, and an important centre in its own right,” said Ed Craig, deputy director of the centre.

Almost 20 Scottish businesses have been brought over to Hong Kong in the past three months. They focus on areas like air pollution and the environment. Six more are due to arrive soon under the new agreement.

Hong Kong businesses and researchers will be invited to work with the centre in Edinburgh, which also has partnerships with Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot Watt University, the centre said.

The centre has helped thousands of small companies in Scotland to reduce their carbon footprint and create profit from waste, Craig said.

This relates to the concept of a circular economy, which aims to phase out waste and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, among other changes.

Craig used the example of Celtic Renewables, which has worked with the centre to produce bio fuels using two waste products from Scotland’s whisky industry that were previously dumped in the sea or on land.

“They’re looking at the waste product and saying we can make a second or a third income from [it], which also makes our [main] product much more environmentally sustainable and financially sustainable,” he said.

Craig identified Hong Kong’s transport system, building standards and energy consumption as ripe for innovation.

Hong Kong uses 4,200 buses made by Scottish company Alexander Dennis, which carry about 4 million passengers every day, according to its website.

Craig described these as “relatively low carbon” but said improvements can be made as the company is already starting to introduce hydrogen buses in Scotland.

Planners squander chance to build ideal urban environments in city

Stefan Krummeck

As air pollution and road congestion continue to worsen, and as private car ownership continues to rise at an alarming rate, public transport and walkability must take top priority in Hong Kong’s urban expansion.

The scale of new development at Kai Tak and Hung Shui Kiu represents a tremendous opportunity to build ideal urban environments from scratch. Unfortunately, planners are squandering that opportunity.

Hong Kong is a world leader in the integration of railway infrastructure and urban development, that is, transited-oriented development (TOD), resulting in some of the highest public transport ridership rates in the world.

Our transit-oriented, mixed-use, highly intense urban model is unique and has helped render our high population density sustainable.

So why don’t we build on these strengths? The latest generation of new towns suffer from a host of design flaws. Many of the same mistakes are being made again in new development areas.

The new MTR stations in Kai Tak and Hung Shui Kiu will be set within vast plazas with no topside development. The planners behind the Hung Shui Kiu plan boast that the plaza will be lined with shops. But the proposed space measures 175 by 500 metres – about the same length as Tiananmen Square between the Gate of Heavenly Peace and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong . A few streetside shops cannot generate vitality in such a massive space. Furthermore, residents will not take the MTR if it is not the most convenient and accessible option. Many TODs of the past have left something to be desired, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

In contrast to mixed-use, vibrant older neighbourhoods, new residential and commercial areas have been compartmentalised within an incoherent mass of dead-end streets. In Tin Shui Wai, social ills have been partly attributed to low-income residents being siloed into insular estates with little opportunity for upward mobility.

Strict segregation of land use developed in the 1960s as a response to local industrial pollution. Now that most manufacturing has left Hong Kong, there is little rationale to this approach. It runs contrary to modern planning thought, which seeks to build balanced communities. Why has this been adopted for Kai Tak?

Walkability, density, mixed-use urbanity, and public transport collectively form the foundation of Hong Kong’s urban sustainability. In new development areas, let’s build on our strengths; our TODs are the envy of the rest of the world.

Stefan Krummeck, director, TFP Farrells Limited