Event Reports

Hong Kong's first Talanoa Climate Dialogue

by Peter Hefele

Dialogue on Climate Change Action

Climate change and sustainability is a major concern not just globally but also for Hong Kong. Being one of the most densely populated cities in the world, reducing climate change and improving sustainability is of great importance. 30 people from a range of Stakeholder organizations came together for a Talanoa style Dialogue to discuss the climate action in Hong Kong and its current situation.

This one day meeting brought together local climate leaders from business, government, NGO's and others to create a better understanding and shared vision of climate action in Hong Kong using a Talanoa Dialogue adopted by the United Nations at the COP 23 climate talks. Using these Talanoa principles, participants discussed Hong Kong’s ambition level on climate change and told stories of the past, the present and the future. Dialogue was focused around three questions proposed by the UNFCCC: Where are we now? Where do we want to get to? How do we get there? The overall aim of the dialogue was to promote greater awareness and achieve higher ambition levels for climate change in Hong Kong. The Talanoa Dialogue allowed for a stress free discussion, away from confrontation and accusations and towards cooperation, trust building and collaborative action.

Where are we now?

Hong Kong has unique geographical characteristics such as the steep hills and the vast surrounding sea. The majority of Hong Kong people live in limited space in-between the mountains and the coast. Hong Kong’s climate is subtropical and subject to times of extreme heat and high humidity. We also happen to be in the path of many typhoons which come our way, arising from the Pacific Ocean. Therefore adaptation to climate-related weather extremes is a vital part of Hong Kong’s climate action alongside efforts at mitigation. These extremes can be seen as Hong Kong has just recently experienced its strongest typhoon ever, “typhoon Mangkhut”. During this segment of the dialog, participants reinforced a common sense of urgency about climate ambition. We expressed the need to encourage and inspire accelerated, holistic climate action in all sectors of our society. Concern was raised that we are approaching a tipping point which adds to the urgent need for higher ambition levels.

Alongside efforts to make Hong Kong more sage and resilient to climate related disasters, we also have a responsibility to contribute to the global effort in mitigating climate change and reduce greenhouse gasses.

Participants also discussed how, although there is expression of concern on climate change, acceptance of the science and broad aspirational goals, there is still a pressing need for these aims to be turned into concrete action plans. Furthermore, while there are many people and stakeholders concerned with the issue, there is still a lot to be done to close the gap on the awareness of the social and economic risks posed by climate change. Participants agree that to achieve our goals of a more sustainable city there needs to be a greater trust and understanding on climate change mitigation.

Where do we want to go?

During the Talanoa Dialogue, participants came together to draw, discuss, and envision their ideal future for a sustainable Hong Kong. They set their minds to the year 2050 and participants explained how they hoped for improved energy security through the transition to renewable energy generation and a wiser use of energy systems and smart grids. In order to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate climate change Hong Kong participants discussed their thoughts on zero emission transport systems and energy efficient housing. Furthermore, being an import dependent city, Hong Kong should take better care with its circular economy to ensure resources are available in the future e.g. recycling. Also, regarding the mental and physical wellbeing of our citizens, participants expressed their wants for the maintenance and improvement of green urban public spaces.

How do we get there?

To achieve these aims, participants discussed how different stakeholders, organizations and sectors need to come together in collaboration. There needs to be action for business sectors, different government departments, civil society and academia work together in cooperative platforms. Furthermore, with help from businesses, governments and civil society, public understanding and awareness can be increased on how they can help and what they can do to help mitigate climate change. Ideas were raised on how Hong Kong, being the financial sector that it is, needs to build institutions, capacities and practices to maximize our ability to finance low-carbon infrastructure, technology and research.

Furthermore, participants elaborated the importance of the government. The government can leverage funding to create an enabling environment and catalyze climate action through business, academia and community groups. Ideas raised for these included interdisciplinary laboratories, the potential for hydrogen as a clean energy source and pilot district’s for low carbon planning and technology.