How does COP27 matter to everyone in Hong Kong?

World leaders, experts, environmentalists and civil advocacies are now gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss solutions to tackling climate change in the 27th annual UN meeting (COP27) on climate. Although it is remote from home, young environmentalists in Hong Kong are ambitious to bring their agendas to the conference.

 Attendees photograph one another outside the main entrance on the first day of the UNFCCC COP 27 climate conference on November 06, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The timing of COP27 is unique. The ongoing Ukraine war, more intensive confrontation between China and the US and Europe’s energy crisis all pushed the involved countries to postpone planned emission reduction measures or restarted fossil fuel production. 

COP26, which is not taken seriously by fellow countries, paved a difficult start for COP27. Although countries agreed to deliver stronger commitments last year by updating national plans with more ambitious targets, only 24 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans to the UN so far. Therefore, COP27 will be about moving from negotiations and “planning for implementation” for all these promises and pledges made.

Among the many issues, climate finance is the elephant that never leaves the negotiation room. Developing countries, especially those geographic locations that are most vulnerable to climate change, are constantly making a strong appeal to developed countries to reassure adequate financial support. 

In Compahangen 2009, rich countries for the first time committed to this financing, but official reports still show that this target is being missed. World leaders joining the conference this year would have to follow up on this unfulfilled promise and other commitments and pledges made in previous COPs.

Although Hong Kong’s role in climate change is not as important as those big emitters, it has not been doing a satisfactory job. 

“61% of the city’s residential area will be covered by sea level if the global temperature rise reaches 3 degrees Celsius,” said Kelly Ching on the Green Queen op-ed page, “we are actually not far from there.” She is one of the Hong Kong delegates who is joining COP27. 

Mr Hiu Chung Kwok, a senior programme officer at a local environmentalist NGO CarbonCare Innolab, said that the major benefit of letting Hong Kong young delegates participate in the conference was that it allows youngsters to talk to the climate decision makers in the global arena. 

“Our schedule is quite packed here in Egypt, ” said Kwok, “conference is the major venue. However, there are some sub-events we could attend. Delegates are free to choose which mini-talks to go to based on their academic interest.” 

CarbonCare Innolab published its once-a-year “Paris Watch: Hong Kong Climate Action Report 2022” right before the opening of COP27, criticizing the Hong Kong government for not being aggressive enough in climate action.

HKSAR was graded C- for this year’s climate situation. The major problem is the little progress in achieving carbon neutrality. Photo: CarbonCare Innolab Homepage.

The Hong Kong government updated the “Hong Kong Climate Action Blueprint 2050” last year, reaffirming the two long-term goals of “carbon halving” by 2035 and “carbon neutrality” by 2050. However, the citizens could not find specific measures in meeting these goals. 

“We specifically draw its attention to the HK$240 billion budget pledged in the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan 2050, which should be further refined and elaborated.” wrote CarbonCare Innolab in their report. 

Mr Kwok also pointed out that Hong Kong is left behind in incorporating public participation in monitoring and verification, to determine the effectiveness of climate adaptation measures. Especially in the area of raising awareness of the importance of reaching “carbon neutrality”. 

Currently, the most tangible advertisement on Hong Kong’s carbon-zero mission is the first-and-only zero-carbon building, the CIC–Zero Carbon Park (“CIC-ZCP”). Located in Kowloon Bay, the CIC-ZCP serves as an exhibition, education and information centre for the government’s climate mission. 

The whole picture of Carbon-zero park in Kowloon Bay. By: Google Earth Studio

“Yes, the intention is good. But education only serves as a long-term strategy. People need to really engage in the policy-making process.” said Chung. 

A device that orients a payload toward the sun. 12 November 2022, Kowloon Bay. Photo: Yvonne Sun
Zero-carbon park uses cool paint materials for the exterior wall of the building. It helps reducing surface temperature by up to 5 oC. Photo was taken on 12 November 2022, Kowloon Bay. Photo: Yvonne Sun

Another major issue to look at in climate policies is how to mitigate different stakeholders’ needs. Mr Kowk pointed out that for the measures of adaptation the climate change, the government needs to put an effort into “the people”. 

“The government still needs to pay attention to more soft measures, such as how to accommodate the needs of vulnerable groups.” said Kwok, “questions like how should people with disabilities act in extreme weather? How do people who live in the sub-divided houses cope with the increasing amount of hot weather? need to be answered.” 

Feature Image: Yvonne Sun

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