Letter To Hong Kong (Ir Dr LO Wai Kwok)

Dear fellow Hong Kong Engineers,

In January this year, Hong Kong has experienced a strongest cold wave in decades. Scientists claim that we may expect more extreme weather in this century due to global climate change.

While Industrialization has brought to us modernization, it has also resulted in high consumption rate of natural resources, depletion of fossil fuels, deforestation, degradation of soils, depletion of the ozone layer, pollution of air and water, and led to global climate change. We are using a lot of energy and emitting a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Our air-conditioning systems are emitting green-house gases, and our lighting systems are of very low efficiency and are obtrusive to the urban environment.

Therefore, the urgent tasks ahead for us Engineers are: to reverse global warming, to reduce emission, to optimize fossil fuel consumption, to develop alternative energy sources, to transit to sustainable Green power, and to maintain balanced economic growth.

We Engineers ought to promote Green Living with minimal greenhouse gas emissions and smarter use of energy. We ought to promote green buildings and improve our waste management system. We need to do whatever we can to combat climate change, and shape a better world with Green Living.

Let’s look at the current situation in Hong Kong. Our city is one of the metropolises with the highest population density in the world. Hong Kong has been very successful in building the infrastructures to cater for the needs of our ever growing population, in terms of housing, transportation, electricity supply, water supply, communication system, etc. However, our hard infrastructures are packed within one-fourth of Hong Kong’s total land area. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, electricity generation accounted for about two thirds of the total. Also, close to 90% of our electricity is consumed in buildings. In other words, electricity consumed by buildings contributes to about 60% of Hong Kong’s green house gas emissions.

In Hong Kong, the main sources of air pollution are: roadside emission from cars, buses, lorries and trucks; marine emission from ferries, ships and boats; emission from the power plants, and those from the neighboring Pearl River Delta region. Research indicated that impact of air pollution from our local sources is greater than other sources.

The Hong Kong Government has collaborated with Guangdong on reducing emission of four major pollutants, namely, SO2, NOx, RSP and VOC.

Every one of us can help reduce road side emission, for example, by minimizing private cars use, taking public transport and walking wherever this is a healthy and feasible option. Car sharing is another option to help reduce traffic volume on the road as well as transport costs.

We Engineers know that in order to make our city a better and greener place to live and do business, we have to strike the right balance among political, social, infrastructural and economic developments.

In the 2015 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced that the Government sets a new target of achieving 5% saving in electricity consumption for government buildings in the coming five years and will conduct energy audits for major government buildings. The Government will also work with public and private organizations to further foster a low-carbon and livable built environment to reduce Hong Kong’s overall electricity demand. The 2016 Policy Address also stated that the Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong’s Built Environment 2015-2025+ has set a new target of reducing energy intensity by 40% by 2025.

Let’s look at what our neighbouring cities are doing. In Seoul, the Government there has introduced smart living initiatives to promote energy conservation. In 2012, 1000 households in Seoul were installed with smart meters and provided with real time reports of electricity, water and gas consumption in terms of monetary units. It was estimated that a 10% reduction in energy consumption could be achieved among these households. In Hong Kong, CLP also started three years ago a smart meter pilot program, called “myEnergy Program” in selected residential estates and commercial sites. These schemes should be able to open up new opportunities for demand-side management.

The Hong Kong Green Building Council has launched the HK3030 Campaign to promote reduction of electricity consumption of buildings in Hong Kong. Using the electricity consumption level of 2005 as the yardstick, it seeks to reduce the territory-wide consumption by 30% by the year 2030.

Given that enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, the HKSAR Government has taken the initiative to install energy efficiency facilities in a number of government buildings.

The Steering Committee on the Promotion of Green Building was set up by the Government in 2013 to enhance the co-ordination among departments and formulate strategies to promote green building.

In light of Hong Kong’s unique conditions such as its high development density and hot and humid weather, we have our locally developed BEAM Plus assessment tool to set new benchmark of excellence for green buildings.

We Engineers ought to promote the use of advanced technologies that can help Green Living. For instance, some district-wide green technologies can be applicable in Hong Kong. The District Cooling System in Kai Tak Development is a good example. I took part in the scrutiny of the Bill on District Cooling Services last year and assumed the role of Chairman of the Bills Committee. This District Cooling System is an air-conditioning system using sea-water cooling, which consumes 35% less electricity as compared with traditional air-cooled air-conditioning systems and 20% less electricity as compared with water-cooled air-conditioning system using cooling towers. I advocate that after gaining relevant experience, the District Cooling System can be further improved and should be applied to other new development areas.

I have joined the Bills Committee on Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal (Product Container) (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Bills Committee on Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal ((Electrical Equipment and Electronic Equipment) (Amendment) Bill 2015, and was elected Chairman of these two Bills Committees. With the completion of scrutiny of these two Bills, the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance and the Waste Disposal Ordinance are amended to provide for the statutory regulatory framework for the proposed mandatory producer responsibility schemes. These two Bills aim to improve green environment through avoid, reduce, reuse, collect, and proper treatment of the wastes. By keeping these materials out of the garbage, we can support the goal to be a “Recycling Smart City”. To effectively implement the blueprint for sustainable use of resources in Hong Kong, we must progress with time, and adopt a new vision for formulating policies and measures to promote Green Living.

Looking to the future, we need new infrastructures as well as new mindset to develop Hong Kong into a Smart and Green City. Our community should work together closely and in harmony to complement each other like good musicians in an orchestra. Fellow Engineers, I pledge to continue to work with you and our friends in the community to play the great engineering concerto together!

Yours sincerely,

Ir Dr Lo Wai Kwok


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