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November 16th, 2015:

Hong Kong officials must explain how they will reach anti-pollution goals

The Environment Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR government has published the “Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015”. It says, “This document updates the actions the government has taken so far in order to set the stage for considering further actions in the future”.

It is a very well put together report and it is a good read. Everybody in Hong Kong should get hold of a copy and read it carefully. It is about the long-term future for our children.

The report exposes some common confusions and illusions of the subject matter.

To start with, the messages from principal officials read as if one has already accomplished. However, when I refer to the figure about the greenhouse gas emission trends for Hong Kong 1990-2012 in the report, I can see that from the point of view of the earth, little has been achieved to ease the pain the planet has suffered in the last 23 years. There is a long way to go.

Games of smoke and mirrors have been played. The best example is how one accounts for our carbon emission: absolutely, on a per capita basis or by this metric called carbon intensity. We may pick our own cherries, but from the earth’s point of view, which one is more relevant?

As an architect, I am particularly interested in the built environmental aspects of the report. To aim for an 80 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, 90 per cent of which are from our buildings, over the next few decades as recommended in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, I wonder if the Development Bureau will say how that can be achieved.

I hope this report will be followed, maybe shortly after the COP21 global summit on climate change, by corresponding reports from each of our bureaus. This must be our government’s policy. Useful targets, action plans and road-maps, and a transparent, accountable monitoring and reporting mechanism must be provided.

Most dear to me is the part on vulnerable groups, such as our elderly, outdoor workers, and poor families in windowless rooms. The most-at-risk group is also the most-in-need group.

Professor Edward Ng, school of architecture,Chinese University of Hong Kong

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