Eleven: Energy and climate change


This chapter considers the nature of global climate change, the threat it poses to Hong Kong, the contribution that Hong Kong and China make to the problem, and some of the implications of these factors for sustainable development, and especially sustainable energy, in Hong Kong (see Harris, Chow and Symons 2010). There is no doubt that China plays a vital role in the context of climate change. China’s energy demand has increased rapidly over the last three decades. As a consequence, it has become the largest national source of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, which causes global warming and the resulting climate change (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency 2007). What is more, due to its enormous population and degraded landscapes, China is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially droughts and extreme weather (Harris 2011c). Because Hong Kong’s population is small compared to the total number of people on earth, the territory’s contribution to global GHG emissions is also comparatively small. However, on a per capita basis Hong Kong people’s contribution to climate change from consumption is among the highest in the world (Hertwich and Peters 2009).

Hong Kong has historically regulated its energy market in a way that promotes economic competitiveness through reliable and low-cost power supplies. However, the environmental costs of energy production and use are becoming more apparent. The threat posed by global climate change is beginning to prompt a rethink of energy policies. Hong Kong imports almost all of its energy, making the territory’s energy security vulnerable to what happens in other places.

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