Blogs

Hong Kong public housing
April 07, 2014
Over the past year, growing pressures on housing in Hong Kong have led policy-makers to re-examine public housing policies towards well-off tenants. While everyone who enters public housing is means-tested upon application, over the years, the incomes and assets of some tenants have grown to the point where they can no longer be considered “poor”. In fact, a favorite talking-point of social commentators is to remark on just how many luxury cars can be found in public housing estate car parks. If they can afford BMWs, should they be allowed to live in public housing?
Alarm bell rings for climate change impacts
April 04, 2014
I have just spent a gruelling week in Yokohama, Japan at the plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). There the summary for policymakers on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability was adopted a day after the official closing, after an all-night marathon of work. The co-chairs of the working group crafting the summary, Chris Field of the United States and Vicente Barros of Argentina, were on the podium for nearly 40 hours straight. The rest of us lead authors were also supposed to be there on standby in case any of the government delegates had questions on the text.
Map of Fukushima evacuation zones
April 03, 2014
Here’s a pop quiz. How many people have died as a direct result of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident: A) 15,884, B) 1 or, C) 0? Until last week the correct answer was C but it can now be argued to be B as a worker at the wrecked nuclear plant died on Friday after being buried under gravel while digging a ditch. Answer A is actually the number of confirmed deaths as a result of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which sort of puts things in perspective.
Assessing ecosystem risks
April 01, 2014
Are you including in your due diligence process an assessment of ecosystem malfunction risk? It is what futurist Peter Schwartz would refer to as an “inevitable surprise.” Consider a few situational issue areas.  In 2012, China Dialogue reported that excessive pesticide use and destruction of habitat are decimating the wild bee population. The implications are many, one of which is that farmers in Southwestern China have had to hand-pollinate apple and pear trees. (This issue is global, also affecting the United States, which is of concern given that crop pollination by insects is estimated to be worth US$14.6 billion to the American economy.)
Ningbo from the river
March 20, 2014
Following the recent “Symposium on a New Type of Major Power Relationship” (see Beijing Charts), our Chinese hosts provided a tour of several cities and facilities, including factories producing solar panels and windmills. In Ningbo I wanted to stay in my hotel and write an op-ed on energy and climate, but was told this would be a major faux pas, so instead I stayed up one night writing World’s Greatest Crime Against Humanity and Nature. The city we visited that day, with population at least comparable to New York City, was bustling in development and construction.
Map of planned dams in Arunachal Pradesh
March 18, 2014
The northeastern India states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, east of Bangladesh and bordering China to the north, is an area described by politicians as India’s “future powerhouse” and is a key focus point of the country’s dam building program. The ambition of planners in New Delhi is not in doubt. So far plans for more than 160 dams – both big and small – have been announced in the northeast, the majority of them to be built in the remote, mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh and harnessing the waters of the mighty Brahmaputra river and its tributaries.
US natural gas production 1990-2040
March 13, 2014
Ukraine and the Crimea are a long way from Asia and, quite understandably, most people and countries across the region are rather less concerned than Europeans and Americans over Russia’s actions. We live an interconnected world, however, and although the eventual outcome of the Ukrainian crisis remains uncertain, there’s one sure bet that should have the attention of energy and climate policy makers across Asia.
On-shore power for ships
March 10, 2014
The Environmental Protection Department of the HKSAR Government has recently released the 2012 air pollutant emission inventory. Just as with the prior three years, ship emissions remain Hong Kong’s largest source of sulphur dioxide (SO2), respirable suspended particulates (RSP or PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The contribution of ships to air pollution has prompted the Government to take action in cleaning up the shipping sector.
ESG does not have to be abstract
March 03, 2014
ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is a common element of contemporary business administration in most parts of the world but companies in Asia have been slow to adopt comprehensive systems for ESG reporting to the standard seen elsewhere.  That doesn’t mean there has been no active ESG agenda, there has, but the imperative in Asia has been driven by a practical approach aimed at meeting formal standards and accreditations to stay competitive in the supply chain, improve environmental systems, address workplace safety or make-good negative community impacts, the result of poor production and emissions practices.
The concept of Net Positive
February 13, 2014
It is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional view of a business existing purely to maximize profit for shareholders is not so much wrong as built for another time. Businesses have been slowly moving towards a model that recognizes the impact they have on society and the environment, putting increasing amounts of budget and resource towards mitigating that impact. But just minimizing the amount of environmental damage a business does is no longer enough.
Zhejiang shark slaughterhouse
February 10, 2014
This past month, images of purportedly the world’s biggest slaughterhouse for endangered sharks were splashed across the broadsheets in Hong Kong, and across the globe. Wild Life Risk, an NGO based in Hong Kong, went undercover in a coastal city Zhejiang Province, China, to find that around 260 endangered species of sharks were being processed per day in a single plant.
Tesla China
January 27, 2014
Thanks largely to its rather uncompromising top-down system of governance, China is more capable than most in delivering on ambitious development goals in a relatively short space of time. The massive growth of its renewable energy sector to become the world’s biggest (although not per capita), is a case in point. By the same token, however, when the central planners get things wrong they can be spectacularly wrong.
Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir memorial
January 06, 2014
Vision enables us to look far and think beyond present circumstances. If we cannot envision, we do not know where we want to go; and we certainly would not get there. By nature, Hong Kong is a water scarce city, which makes a water vision all the more relevant. So what is Hong Kong’s water vision? Ever since the DongShen Water Supply Project helped to secure 70-80 percent of Hong Kong’s fresh water demand, innovation in developing water solutions rapidly declined.
Sai Yeung Choi Street
December 20, 2013
In Hong Kong’s congested urban core, pedestrianization would seem like the logical and obvious solution to overcrowded pavements, roadside air pollution, and pedestrian-vehicle conflict. Yet, pedestrianization has become a political no-go due to not-in-my-backyard politics. Last month, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council voted to curtail a pedestrian scheme in Mong Kok, one of the busiest shopping districts in the city.
Launch of SupportHK
December 18, 2013
From public demonstrations against finance institutions, the planned development of an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, to appeals against the development of an escalator through the peaceful and historic Pound Lane in Sai Ying Pun, there appears to be a growing appetite in Hong Kong to pressure government and business to listen and act on local citizen’s concerns. 
Projection of CLP's proposed Hong Kong offshore wind farm
December 09, 2013
Charismatic Swedish statistician and “edutainer” Hans Rosling recently gave a speech where he tackled common misperceptions about global issues. He emphasized that most people overestimate the amount of effort that has been channeled into developing renewable energy and concluded: “Let’s not make a joke of solar and wind – those are the real potentials for the future, no doubt … it’s very strange that people think they are so big already, when they are really small. We haven’t even started to tap the enormous potential of solar and wind energy.”
A truly green car
November 22, 2013
We are reminded again the adverse impacts of air pollution on human health when the World Health Organization recently announced that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic. Roadside vehicular emission is one of the major sources of air pollution in Hong Kong, yet the HKSAR Government has made little progress to date on absolute reductions of roadside emissions. Despite this, some policy changes shows promise. The new Air Quality Objective (AQO), to take effect in 2014, will be complemented by a host of other environmental initiatives that are designed to pave the way toward achieving the new AQO by 2020.
Spatial distribution of SO2 from ships around Hong Kong, 2008
November 07, 2013
Tackling air pollution must be a multi-pronged attack. Regulators and industry can reduce certain pollutants by using cleaner fuel, like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department is in the throes of tightening regulation on locally available fuel for vessels to do just this. This diesel fuel will be mostly used for so called “local craft” – like tug boats, ferries and barges – and could be used by the larger, ocean-going vessels like container ships while at berth, if regulation demands it.
Airline emissions over European territory
October 17, 2013
The European Commission has set the cat among the aviation pigeons once again by proposing to apply the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS) within its own airspace from 1 January 2014. The move has drawn a predicable chorus of whining from the airlines which are currently basking in self-congratulation over the recent progress made toward a global regime to control their greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this month industry regulators meeting at the assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in effect agreed to come to a final agreement on a market based mechanism to control emissions at their next triennial assembly in 2016.
From farm to fork
October 09, 2013
Hong Kong imports over 90 percent of its food supply from around the world, and China is an important source especially for fresh food. Though we might expect the government to act as gatekeepers to ensure food safety for the public, recent incidents with oilfish, Sudan dyes, malachite green etc., have all revealed that there are significant holes in our institutional framework, and that it might still be in its infancy. It also contrasts considerably with more sustainable initiatives such as “farm-to-fork”.