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Sustainability and Low-Carbon Solutions: The Hong Kong Agenda in COP21 – Conference Review

      The UN Climate Change Summit in Paris, known as COP21, will be held from 30 November to 11 December. There is no doubt that Hong Kong, as a relatively prosperous city, should be responsible to help reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.  In response to the Paris climate talks, a full-day conference entitled ‘Sustainability & Low-Carbon Solutions – Hong Kong Agenda in COP21’ was jointly organized by CarbonCare InnoLab and Carbon Care Asia on 25 November.  Special guest speakers, including government officials, corporate management and NGO representatives were invited to air their views on the role Hong Kong can play in COP21 and in facing up to the challenges of climate change.

       The conference spanned over three themes. Theme One focused on Low-carbon Innovations and Solutions’. Four InnoTeams from the Jockey Club CarbonCare Open Innovation Lab (COIL) programme made their debut, presenting innovative solutions to help Hong Kong achieve sustainable development through a bottom-up approach. ‘Hong Kong Urban Cycling Academy’, one of the InnoTeams which promotes urban cycling, proposed to implement a training and accreditation scheme for urban cyclists, and develop a mobile app providing information on safe urban cycling routes.  Its ultimate aim is to make Hong Kong a bike-friendly city.  ‘My Trees My City’, another InnoTeam which deeply cares about trees in the urban areas of Hong Kong, proposed using a citizen-science approach to advocate for ‘trees and people to co-exist harmoniously’. Tree surveys and education programmes will be their tools for conveying this important message to the people of Hong Kong.  Their presentation included the premiere showing of a short but heart-warming video called ‘The Tree in Everyone’s Heart’ (Watch the video here). InnoTeam ‘Farmunion City’ detected opportunities from idle spaces in our city, and hence came up with the idea of turning urban rooftops into organic farms. This does not only help local residents achieve some level of self-sufficiency in food supply, but also helps to reduce our city’s overall carbon emissions. Finally, the InnoTeam led by Ms Patsy Cheng, Director of SEE Network, has formulated four principles that constitute “Consumer Social Responsibility” -- ‘responsible consumption’: ‘resource conservation’, ‘help yourself and help others’‘ethical consumption’ and ‘build up responsible consumer networks’. This team is considering to launch a ‘Responsible Consumption Campaign’ through community education and by developing an informative mobile app. The aim is to induce a behavioral change among the consumers to reduce wastes and carbon footprint.  

        A panel discussion with other guests was held after the presentation, during which representatives of four InnoTeams were asked to respond to questions like how and why did they come up with those innovative solutions, and what kind of support they expected from the public and the business sector to make their ideas work. Connie, a member of the ‘My Trees My City’ team, said she got her idea when she saw so many urban trees being chopped down without the knowledge of the residents. She wanted a better conservation of the green canopy in Hong Kong’s urban areas. Mr Pat Woo, Director of KPMG, commented that enterprises which placed importance on creativity-nurturing and sustainable development would be concerned about whether their office space was well-utilized.  Sharing similar views, Mr Chan Ka Leung, member of the ‘Hong Kong Urban Cycling Academy’, was confident that urban cycling is possible in Hong Kong. He encouraged businesses to adopt ‘bike-friendly’ practices, such as installing bike racks and shower rooms, to motivate more employees to cycle to work. Mark, member of the ‘Farmunion City’ team, commented that other than initial funding, more active engagement by enterprises like providing rooftops and encouraging participation from their employees would be essential to make his urban farming project a success. Ms Patsy Cheng, Director of SEE Network, also looked forward to collaborating with the business sector, including research on the ways of implementing ‘Consumer Social Responsibility’ (CnSR) and the provision of resources to launch a ‘Responsible Consumption Campaign’  at community level.  Mr Victor Kwong, Chairman of the Towngas Environmental Working Committee and Head of Corporate Health, Safety and Environment of the Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited, added that to nurture creative ideas, corporate management needed to be open-minded. 

        The theme of the other two sections of the conference was ‘COP21 and Hong Kong Agenda’  and ESG Reporting and Carbon Management, respectively, during which representatives from the government, businesses and NGOs discussed about strategic policy agenda and actions in response to possible impacts from climate change. Keynote speakers included the Hon Lam Woon-Kwong, Convenor of the Executive Council, Ms Christine Loh, Under-Secretary for the Environment, and Mr Vincent Piket, Head of Office of the European Union to Hong Kong and Macao. In conjunction with this conference, the CarbonCare® Label 2015 Award Ceremony was held in recognition of the remarkable carbon reduction efforts and commitments by 32 pioneering companies and organizations.

         From December 1 - 10, CarbonCare Innolab and Carbon Care Asia will lead an accredited NGO and social business delegation from Hong Kong to the UN Climate Summit in Paris.  Feedback and opinion collected from this conference will be presented and shared with representatives from governments and businesses, as well as green activists at the summit.  The delegates will bring the latest news and views from Paris upon their return to Hong Kong, and share them with the public in the forthcoming InnoFriday Talk to be held on 18 December. Please stay tuned for further details.