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Hong Kong has set an ‘aggressive’ carbon emission reduction target, claims Environment Sec.

Hong Kong has set an “aggressive” carbon emission reduction target of 50 percent to 60 percent by 2020, Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing claimed after attending the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

“I understand that this week’s Climate Change Conference is a crucial moment, and of course Hong Kong is concerned about this issue [of climate change]. I also hope that there would be a positive outcome at the conference,” Wong told the media after returning from COP21 in Paris on Thursday morning.

“We discussed the work Hong Kong has done to tackle climate change at the China Pavilion, and I presented the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015… Hong Kong’s current emission reduction targets are actually aggressive, with an aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 60 percent by 2020.”

At the COP21 Summit, Wong has also said that Hong Kong is aiming to become a low-carbon liveable city, and that there is a new target to reduce the city’s energy intensity by 40 percent by 2025.

‘Nothing new’

On Wednesday, Wong was criticised by an NGO delegate from Hong Kong for focusing merely on the city’s past actions rather than speaking about future plans.

“All the leaders were talking about future pledges. But nothing of that sort came out of Wong,” CEO of CarbonCare Asia Albert Lai told RTHK.

Wong refused to comment on whether the Environment Bureau will ask the two major power companies to reduce the electricity fees, saying that it will be announced in due course. Earlier, it was reported that CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) and The Hong Kong Electric Company Limited have overcharged for electricity and fuel costs to the tune of nearly HK$5.7 billion.

In Hong Kong and around the world, we all have a part to play in combating climate change

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Cities launch five-year vision to tackle climate change

Ahead of national government commitments, cities around the world are taking unprecedented action to cut carbon emissions and build resilient societies.

Cities across the world representing almost a fifth of the global population have launched a five-year vision to scale up actions to tackle climate change.

This five-year vision, led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will include building the resilience of vulnerable cities as well as improving capital flows to finance low-carbon infrastructure projects, among others.

Speaking at the launch of the vision at the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Focus on Cities event on Tuesday, Al Gore, former vice president of the United States and climate advocate, said that cities and subnational governments “are playing a critical role in bringing a solution to the climate crisis”.

They are “essential for enabling us to move from negotiation to implementation”, in order to achieve a global target of cutting emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, he said.

“Everyone knows the subnational governments have moved out faster than the national governments”, he told a packed room of 200 at Le Bourget, Paris, where the United Nations climate change summit talks are being held this week.

This LPAA vision will enable the world to make even faster progress, he said. “What’s happening here in Paris is a reaching of critical mass among governors and subnational leaders, who are comparing notes and in some cases outdoing each other on ever more ambitious and impressive commitments”, Gore added.

Also speaking at the launch, Segolene Royal, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, said the vision will be finalised by next year, along with the signatories to the declaration.

The vision outlines four objectives, namely:

  • Increasing the number of cities and regions deciding to implement an Action Plan and climate objectives;
  • Building resilience in the greatest number of cities and regions, with particular attention to vulnerable populations;
  • Improving project preparation and climate planning to ensure increased financial flows to the territories, but also accelerate the deployment of innovative economic and financial tools;
  • Supporting multi-partnership initiatives between different levels of governance.

The LPAA is a joint initiative by the Peruvian and French presidencies of the UN meetings – known as COP – which aims to mobilise robust actions towards low carbon and resilient societies.

In a statement, the UN said subnational authorities now make up the largest group contributing climate commitments into the UN’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) database, an online portal that functions as a central clearinghouse on climate-related commitments by all entities other than national governments.

As urban areas are responsible for half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they are crucial in meeting the internationally agreed goal to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

“This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to lock new urban expansion into a new development model towards climate-resilient and low-carbon societies at large scale, leap frogging the old patterns of urban life for a growing population,” said the UNFCCC.

Government negotiators from around the world are racing against the clock to finalise a universal agreement to tackle climate change by the end of the UN meeting on Friday.

While there are still key differences to be ironed out, the atmosphere has generally been optimistic.

Gore told the audience: “Every great moral cause in the history of humanity has been met with a series of ‘Nos’ with fierce resistance, but after the last ‘No’, when people realize that the fundamental choice is between what is right and wrong, then comes a ‘Yes’.”

“We’re at that point in Paris, and one of the reasons we’re at this point is because of the subnational leaders who are taking much bolder, faster, meaningful action which is changing the course of human civilization.”

‘Rising sea levels will only happen around 2100, by then we’ll all be dead’

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Hong Kong business group urges city’s private sector to help fight climate change

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COP21: Why do two degrees matter?

Global average temperatures in 2015 are likely to be the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

A combination of a strong El Nino and human-induced global warming made the five-year period from 2011 to 2015 the warmest on record, researchers say.

The new findings are likely to feature prominently at the UN Climate Change Convention in Paris, when global political leaders and negotiators will aim to secure a new global deal that would limit emissions of carbon dioxide.

Climate negotiators agreed in Cancun in 2010 to commit their governments to “hold the increase in global average temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.

BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath assesses the significance of that figure, and why it is seen as the gateway to dangerous warming – all in less than the time it takes to make a coffee.

Produced by Marcus Thompson and Jean-Li Lee

Report: Waste Sector GHG Emissions Significantly Underestimated

The waste sector has a key role to play in the development of a low carbon economy and the reduction of greenhouse gases, according to a report published by Zero Waste Europe today.

The report, The potential contribution of waste management to a low carbon economy, was commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+ and prepared by Eunomia Research & Consulting’s Ann Ballinger and Dominic Hogg.

It’s key finding is that the role waste prevention and improved waste management can play in reducing GHG emissions and the development of a low carbon economy has previously been significantly understated.

ZWE noted that in December, delegates from across the world will gather in Paris to negotiate a new climate agreement aimed at replacing the Kyoto Protocol. The parties to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are progressively publishing their pledges in terms of GHG reductions which are supposed to limit global warming to under 2°C.

Among the many possible climate change mitigation solutions that are emphasised, according to the report’s authors, one that is consistently underestimated is the significance of waste management strategies.

One reason for this is said to be that the ‘waste’ section of the national inventories to the UNFCCC does not take into account most of the emissions from this sector. Emissions reported under this section mainly concern methane emissions from landfills. All the emissions related to the transport of waste and incineration with energy recovery are respectively reported under the transport and energy sections.

According to Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), the report also provides an accurate examination of the true impact of waste management on climate change and carbon emissions. It confirms that actions at the top of the waste hierarchy – including waste prevention initiatives, reuse and recycling – have considerable scope to reduce climate change emissions.

It is stated in the report that: “A climate friendly strategy, as regards materials and waste, will be one in which materials are continually cycling through the economy, and where the leakage of materials into residual waste treatments is minimised”. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging can be a saving of 500 kg CO2 eq, whereas using one tonne less plastic packaging results in avoiding 6 times more emissions (3 tonnes CO2 eq).

The authors make 11 key recommendations, calling for waste policies to be redesigned in order to prioritise the higher level options of the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ (waste prevention, reuse and recycling) and immediately reallocate climate finance subsidies which are currently supporting energy generation from waste. These recommendations put a strong focus on correcting methodological issues that are currently preventing Member states and the European union from implementing waste policies that are efficient in terms of GHG emissions.

The report said that in the decarbonising economy required to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, technologies such as incineration will become less attractive options and ultimately present an obstacle to a low carbon economy.


Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s associate director:
“For far too long the climate impact of waste management has been overlooked. Now it’s clear that waste prevention, reuse and recycling are climate change solutions that need to be fully integrated into a low carbon economy. Both at the EU and international level, it is time to shift climate finance support to these climate-friendly options instead of waste incineration, which in fact contributes to climate change and displaces livelihoods of recyclers worldwide.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste France’s advocacy officer:
“With France hosting the COP21 in December, it is a real opportunity to raise decision makers’ awareness about the real impact of waste management on climate change and the extent to which Zero Waste strategies have to be put on the agenda of solutions to climate mitigation supported by the French government.”

Françoise Bonnet, Secretary general of ACR+:
“Efficiency and smart waste management is key for a low carbon economy. Still, it is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective”.

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