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HKU hosts Inaugural Hong Kong Climate Forum Fostering collaborations to create regional and international impact on the climate front

HONG KONG SAR - Media OutReach Newswire - 11 April 2024 - The ambitious sustainability goals set by China and California, US, which are at the forefront of combatting climate change, have made collaborations between the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and the American state more pertinent than ever, speakers at the inaugural Hong Kong Climate Forum: Greater Bay Area - Climate Action and Cooperation held on 25 March at the University of Hong Kong noted.

HKU hosts Inaugural Hong Kong Climate Forum Fostering collaborations to create regional and international impact on the climate front
HKU hosts Inaugural Hong Kong Climate Forum Fostering collaborations to create regional and international impact on the climate front

Announced by President Xi Jinping in 2020, China has set a goal of having CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, while California is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, which was codified into Law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Paul CHAN Mo-po, Financial Secretary of HKSAR, unveiled in his remarks Hong Kong's vision and the government's commitment in developing a sustainability disclosure ecosystem and formulating a set of local sustainability reporting standards aligned with international standards. He further highlighted the city's strong foundation in research and education, particularly within its universities, as well as the significant presence of green-technology companies in Science Park and Cyberport, emphasising their crucial role in facilitating Hong Kong's green transition.

Zhou Guomei, Director General of International Cooperation of Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment, in her opening remarks on behalf of Minister Huang Runqiu stressed the importance of leveraging this annual climate forum in Hong Kong as a hub to foster international climate cooperation between the GBA, China and overseas.

Wang Yi, vice-chairman of the China Experts Panel on Climate Change and a standing committee member of the National People's Congress, said at the forum China's green initiatives had become a driver for GDP growth, and collaborations between the Greater Bay Area and California would provide further stimulus by reducing costs at scale, and enhance the abilities to tackle climate change.

Zhu Wei, Deputy Director General of the Guangdong Provincial Development and Reform Commission, and Office of the Greater Bay Area, said Guangdong was poised to take the lead in decarbonizing through innovation and technology, by for example accelerating the development of a green manufacturing system, and accelerated adoption of renewable energy.

"GBA has already achieved carbon reduction resulting from its current policies, and there is much room for further technological co-operation, exchange in talents etc.," stressed another speaker, Jiang Hongqi, Deputy Director General, Department of Ecology and Environment, Guangdong Province.

Shen Yuan, vice-president of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, and Li Pengcheng, vice-president of China Mengniu Dairy Company Ltd, cited examples of the climate mitigation measures adopted at their plants, such as the use of new materials by both their production team and vast network of supply chain partners.

California state officials expressed impressiveness with the advanced technology and green policies adopted in GBA. Yana Garcia, the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, listed energy storage and water recycling as potential areas for further partnership. She acknowledged the challenges involved in meeting California' ambitious environmental goals, including the use of pure electric heavy-duty vehicles and a 71 % improvement in air quality. "The strong partnership that we have moved in is something we want to leverage very much," she said, adding: "We are in the process of removing the nation's largest dam in California, and we are facing very severe water supply challenge; the technology and innovation in the area of water recycling is something that we are interested in exploring."

Chinese officials and other speakers from the business sector at the forum agreed with the importance of green finance in accelerating the transition to low-carbon economy. Resources are always vital for implementing and sustaining changes. Shen of Geely lauded carbon trading for laying a good foundation for fund raising.

Wong Chuen Fai, the Commissioner for Climate Change of the HKSAR's Environment and Ecology Bureau, noted Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre plays a key role in attracting and diverting resources into the various transition initiatives. On Hong Kong's goal to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050, he cited three areas where collaborations are needed, namely technology (including the development of hydrogen vehicles), finance and capacity building. "We can collaborate in research and technology and apply the technology to help industries achieve better carbon performance," he said. "I think it is important for us to join hands to do capacity building so that everyone can contribute their part in this carbon neutrality journey."

As noted by others, regional collaborations can also benefit the world through the sharing of technology and effective measures.

Education is indispensable. Professor Cui Yi, the Founding Director of Stanford University's Sustainability Accelerator, said at the forum that they were developing a curriculum on Scaling in Sustainability, while offering funding for faculty, students, postdocs and talents to identify policy and technology gaps, then develop projects that can produce scalable solutions.

Here HKU is also taking the lead in nurturing talents to meet the challenges in combating climate change, having launched the master's programme in climate governance and risk management with the first intake for fall 2024.

An overwhelming response, about 1,000 applications were received for the programme, said Professor Gong Peng, Vice-President (Academic Development) and Founding Director of the Institute for Climate and Carbon Neutrality (ICCN), HKU. Also on offer are doctoral and post-doctoral research opportunities and executive training programme on climate leadership and corporate governance.

"We want to build a bridge for the Greater Bay Area for climate action and co-operation, starting from China and California on a sub-national scale, then expanding to China, US, Europe and the rest of the world," said Professor Gong, adding: "We want to build a global talent and innovation hub in Hong Kong, to attract talents who can do impactful research and publish important works to train the next generation of climate leaders, and to serve as a platform for innovation and co-operation at scale."

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