Hong Kong

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Local Policy

Hong Kong (HK) counts 7.24 million inhabitants under the mayor’s jurisdiction and 7.31 million in the metropolitan area. Hong Kong’s GDP is $416 Billion. In October 2007, after joining the C40 Cities network, climate policy became a specific strategy in HK. The adaptation and mitigation plans are not designed as a single stand alone climate change plan. Initiatives addressing climate change are taken directly by each department of the administration concerned (Housing, Security, Health, etc.). It is consequently separated in various plans dealing with energy saving, transports, housing, and adaptation.



There are several plans launched to address climate change in HK, they are sector oriented (energy saving, sustainable use of resources, food and yard waste). In 2010, Hong Kong decided its target will be to reduce the carbon intensity by 50-60% from 2005 level by 2020. In absolute GHG emissions, it represents a 19 to 33% reduction. The carbon intensity of an economy is calculated by looking at GHG emissions on a CO2-e per dollar of GDP basis. The overall time frame of mitigation actions is set up until 2020. As HK is under the jurisdiction of the Government of China regarding international agreement, the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol were extended to HK in May 2003[1] as a part of the People’s Republic of China’s internal policy.

Climate change mitigation policies in HK aren’t part of a global plan but resulting from diverse departments initiatives. Many managing plans for mitigation purposes are the outcome of the consultancy process[2], led by the Inter-departmental Working Group on Climate Change. Each initiative is aimed at mitigating carbon emissions in a specific emitting sector, such as energy, buildings, food, resource exploitation. The HK Government aims at enhancing community-wide actions to meet the challenge of climate change. Through the measures taken in HK, certain kinds of policy tools are predominantly used. Incentives such as carbon labeling for construction products were launched in 2014. Legislative requirements are broadly used, especially in the public transports and building sectors (Building Energy Codes). Taxation and fiscal incentives are traditional policy tools used by HK Authorities.


Little information is delivered on financial aspects of mitigation strategies, however, financial support and economic development are not considered as barriers for HK’s authorities, as the country is following a continuous increase in its GDP. Margaret Lo, Head of Programs and Projects, Greater China, The Climate Group, underlined that political leadership could be the main barrier toward deeper engagement on climate change policies. Still, the financial sector is not involved in the mitigation process, generating barriers regarding the access to funds by public and private initiatives[3].



With the common target of addressing adaptation issues, several sector plans have been launched in HK (greening, drainage, natural disasters, water management and biodiversity).

The HK Special Administrative Region’s climate change science institution is the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO). It publishes a variety of reports and projections on climate change related to Hong Kong, and also takes part in IPCCC’s work. Among impacts affecting the urban area, HKO predicts damages to power lines and other assets under extreme weather, supply interruptions and power spikes, higher risk of thermal stress, exacerbation of health problems, and increase risk of flooding and landslides due to strong winds, storm surges, under typhoons. Addressing urban heat island effect is a major issue for Hong Kong, due to the height and density of its buildings. Preventing landslides has always been a priority for HK Government, the City is consequently well advanced on implementation of security measures on this matter.  As 15% of HK’s total land area is below mean sea level, and parts of these areas are pavements and densely populated, it is subjected to high flood risks.

Best Practice

Hong Kong has always privileged the use of seawater for flushing. The originality of this measure lies in the fact that it wasn’t launched in response to climate change commitments, but it ended being a solution to climate adaptation and decrease of potable water resources. Indeed, the seawater system has been implemented in the 1950’s, primarily in high density areas, and then extended to the entire urban area. Today, nearly 80% of the population is now supplied with seawater for flushing[4]. In fact, Hong Kong has never been self-sufficient in fresh water supply. Knowing that with human development and climate change, the amount of available fresh water is decreasing, the extensive use of seawater is helping to reduce demand on fresh water. During 2015, an average of 746,240 cubic meters per day of sea water was supplied for flushing purposes, saving an equivalent amount of potable water. Hong Kong is the only city in the world using seawater for flushing on such a large scale.



[1] “Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015” (Hong-Kong: Environment Bureau, November 2015).

[2] “Hong Kong’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda : Consultation Document” Consultation Document (Hong Kong: Environment Bureau, 2010).

[3] Liam Salter and Alanna Miles, “Low Carbon Economy for Hong Kong Sector Regulations Paper,” July 2010.

[4] “WSD – Seawater for Flushing” Government, accessed May 10, 2016.