Letter to the Editor from the Environmental Protection Department on Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 (English Only)

Subject: Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 

To: Editor of South China Morning Post 

I refer to the article on 17 December 2021 which wrongly stated that HK’s climate plan "not meeting goals under Paris deal".

The goal of Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. This goal is to be achieved by reaching global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century (year not specified). Because of previous efforts, our carbon emissions already reached the peak in 2014. In 2020, our per capita carbon emissions were already more than 25% below the peak. To further our contribution according to the Paris Agreement, the Government released in October 2021 the Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 (the Plan), setting out the strategies and actions to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. To push for early actions, the Plan adds an interim target to reduce Hong Kong’s carbon emissions by 50% before 2035 compared to the 2005 level, which is more or less on par with Tokyo and Seoul. Tokyo’s emissions reduction target is 50% by 2030 compared to the 2000 level and that for Seoul is 40% (not 60%) by 2030 compared to the 2005 level.

Recently the phasing out of coal for electricity generation has been identified as a challenge towards carbon neutrality for many countries and cities. Though Hong Kong had once relied heavily on coal for electricity generation, we prohibited the building of new coal-fired electricity plants as from 1997 and the Plan has further pledged to phase out coal for daily electricity generation by 2035.

Although the geographical setting has limited our potential to develop large-scale renewable energy (RE) systems (such as solar and wind energy), the Plan has set an ambitious target of increasing the share of RE by over 10 folds by 2035, from less than 1% at present to 7.5% to 10%, and further to 15% subsequently. It also commits to explore the use of new zero carbon fuels such as hydrogen as well as strengthen cooperation with neighbouring regions for achieving net-zero electricity generation before 2050.

Furthermore, the Plan sets out targets to reduce the electricity consumption of commercial buildings by 30% to 40%, and that of residential buildings by 20% to 30% from the 2015 level by 2050, and to chart the progress, achieve half of the above target by 2035. To tackle methane emissions, it sets a target to phase out the use of landfills for disposal of municipal wastes by 2035. To tackle vehicular carbon emissions, it pledges to stop registration of new conventional fuelled cars before 2035 and achieve carbon neutrality of the entire vehicle fleet before 2050.

All the above targets in the Plan are supported with strategies, actions and measures. To show the Government’s commitment, apart from the Chief Executive chairing a high level committee and that a dedicate climate office will be set up, the Government will devote about $240 billion to take forward various measures on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Of course, still all walks of life in Hong Kong will have to change to achieve carbon neutrality. For that we look forward to working with all sectors in the community.

Daniel Tang,
Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Cross-Boundary & International),
Environmental Protection Department