Environmental issues were to the fore at the online Eco Asia Conference, organised by the Environment Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It is one of the key events held as part of Eco Expo Asia 2020, which took place virtually on 19, 20 and 23 November.
Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and Messe Frankfurt (HK) Ltd and co-organised by the Environment Bureau, Eco Expo Asia was staged as part of HKTDC Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE (ASWO) – a virtual trade fair, themed under “A New Connected World Beyond the New Normal”, that has attracted 2,600 exhibitors from 33 countries and regions, featuring 37 group pavilions and showcasing the latest products from 11 industries.
The Eco Asia Conference is one of more than 20 webinar sessions being held during ASWO. Highlights of the conference included the latest progress on environmental protection work in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and insights into the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“This year's thematic topic of the expo is 'Green Innovation for a Circular Economy'. Amidst the pandemic, the demand for green recovery and the need for green innovation and a green economy to speed up the transitions for deep decarbonisation have become even stronger,” said Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment of the HKSAR.
Mr Wong outlined Hong Kong’s green efforts, explaining that in response to the mainland’s carbon reduction targets, Hong Kong’s per capita carbon emissions had dropped from a peak of 6.2 tonnes in 2014 to 5.4 tonnes recently. The government has also encouraged the business sector to invest in renewable energy, popularised electric transport facilities and increased sorting and screening in the recycling process. The HKSAR Government hopes that Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area can join the rest of the world in rallying around innovative technologies to develop a circular economy.
On the topic of Greater Bay Area development, Zhang Jieqing, Deputy Director-General, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China, and Lu Xiulu, Director-General, Department of Ecology and Environment of Guangdong Province, both said that “ecology protection” is the focus of the region’s development and that it is important for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to maintain close cooperation.
Mr Lu suggested establishing a cross-regional carbon-trading platform to attract international capital, setting up a research centre to examine the causes of pollution in the region and develop strategies to address them, as well as launching a green-finance fund to encourage business investment. Tam Vai Man, Director, Environmental Protection Bureau, Macao Special Administrative Region Government, said participating in the development of the Greater Bay Area is currently one of Macao’s policy priorities.
Cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao was spotlighted in one of the panel discussions at the conference.
Ou Yuezhou, Honorary Chairman, Guangdong Association of Environmental Protection Industry, said mutual recognition of the qualifications of talents in the Greater Bay Area is part of the necessary preparatory work for the region. He suggested establishing a technical certification body to ensure the quality of environmental industries in the Greater Bay Area. In the long run, he believes that by combining the strengths of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, the Greater Bay Area is capable of attracting environmental enterprises of a higher level and larger scale to set up operations in the region.
Daniel Cheng, President of the Hong Kong Environmental Industry Association, added that there is room for coordination among customs authorities in the region. “It is tough for us to move our research testing machines from Hong Kong to the mainland because we do not have import approval and no one dares to take up transportation,” he explained. Mr Cheng hoped that the respective governments could work together to facilitate the exchange.
Hong Kong and Macao are geographically small and both face landfill saturation and local recycling restrictions. Kevin Ho, Director-General, Macao Association of Environmental Protection Industry, raised the possibility of cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in the area of waste treatment. Mr Ou said legal restrictions in the mainland meant waste could not be transported there from Hong Kong and Macao. Construction of an artificial island may be considered as a base to handle waste from the region as part of building a circular economy.
Sustainable Development Goals
Another theme of the conference revolved around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations in 2015, with a vision for 2030 in which countries, rich and poor alike, can participate and develop in a way that treats both economic and conservation concerns.
James Gomme, Director of Sustainable Development Goals, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), quoted United Nations figures showing that the SDGs could create a business value of US$12 trillion and 380 million jobs annually. He believes the SDGs are a way to help the global economy recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Shi Xuan Guan, Deputy Secretary-General, China Association of Circular Economy, said the mainland is beginning to see results from development of a circular economy, such as the gradual establishment of a green consumption model and improved regulations and standards.
Ho Chi-shing, Chairman of the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, introduced the “COVID-19 Resilience Finance Certification Scheme”, which encourages bond issuers to invest in projects to prevent or control the pandemic.
Albert Wong, CEO of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, cited the example of the park’s community, which is working to improve Hong Kong’s air quality and reduce waste through pilot projects such as robotic kitchens and construction of residential buildings using modular integrated construction.
At the final panel discussion of the conference, corporate representatives discussed promoting SDGs, with a consensus that companies cannot achieve all 17 targets, but rather should focus on the areas they are good at.
Hendrik Rosenthal, Director – Group Sustainability of CLP Group, said carbon reduction, bringing in more female engineering talents and deploying energy efficiency technologies are the focus of the company’s development.
Albert Lam, CEO of Novelte Robotics Limited, concluded that SDGs are important indicators. “We know that everyone is moving forward. We are sure that we are on the right path and that we are sustainable,” he said.
The HKTDC runs Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE from 16 to 27 November, featuring the latest products from different industries including electronics, houseware, lighting, outdoor lighting, eco tech, gifts and premiums, toys, baby products, stationery, optical and watches and clocks. The virtual fair serves as a one-stop online sourcing platform to keep small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) connected with global buyers and help create business opportunities across various sectors. The Intelligence Hub features more than 20 webinar sessions covering a broad range of industries. The videos of the webinar sessions are available at the ASWO website.