Hong Kong Govt. to Accelerate Environmental Policies for a Greener Future
October 31, 2023
Chief Executive John Lee’s second Policy Address, delivered on Oct. 25, acknowledged environmental issues but revealed a pressing need for the government to expedite policy implementation and legislative progress. To effectively combat the imminent climate crisis, progressive and proactive environmental policies are required.
Waste reduction and resource management are key areas where urgent action is necessary. The government proposes introducing a bill to establish a legislative framework for producer responsibility schemes, gradually extending their coverage to include plastic beverage containers, beverage cartons, electric vehicle batteries, vehicle tyres, and lead acid batteries. The waste charging scheme, scheduled for April 1, 2024, calls for immediate promotion of waste reduction among the public.
However, the legislation for the producer responsibility scheme must be enacted before the waste charging scheme takes effect. To ensure a recycling rate of at least 70% and alleviate pressure on landfills, implementing a progressive deposit return system with a deposit price no lower than HK$1 per bottle or carton is crucial.
While the government’s proposed measures primarily focus on geotechnical solutions and meteorological monitoring to address climate change symptoms, the root causes and the contribution of natural environments are neglected. To tackle the climate crisis at its source, the government should lead efforts in conserving natural environments such as green belts and wetlands, while also enhancing the carbon sequestration capacity of country parks. Establishing a statutory timetable and imposing emission reduction requirements on high-carbon-emitting sectors are essential for effective climate action.
Additionally, mandating the disclosure of information in energy audit reports for buildings and shortening the energy audit interval are welcomed measures. The current audit requirements are too lenient, with audit cycles lasting up to 10 years. Given the pace of technological advancement, shortening the energy audit cycle to three –to five years would enable more effective monitoring of buildings’ energy efficiency. Furthermore, the government must ensure that ‘carbon auditing’ covers government infrastructure, including upcoming projects like the Northern Metropolis, to align with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
The Policy Address also emphasizes the need to formulate a strategy for hydrogen development and expand the network of charging facilities to support electric vehicles (EVs).
The government plans to increase the number of public and private parking spaces with charging infrastructure to approximately 200,000 by mid-2027. While this is a positive step, there is a demand for installing chargers in existing housing estates as well, along with simplifying the application process while considering safety and environmental protection.
With the impending wave of battery replacements for EVs, the government must expedite the legislative process to establish effective systems for collecting, recycling and manging used EV batteries to minimize their environmental impact.
While the focus on hydrogen development and expanding charging infrastructure is welcomed, more comprehensive and progressive policies are necessary. It is crucial for the government to prioritise environmental sustainability and take decisive steps towards a greener future for Hong Kong.
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