CSR Asia: Climate change is inevitable and therefore there is a need to examine adaptation measures that can manage the challenges presented by changes in the climate that we will experience in Hong Kong.
Climate change will mean that Hong Kong will experience a warmer climate, at times with significantly more rainfall but will also face the risk of seasonal water shortages. Hong Kong will also experience a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, tidal surges, typhoons and very heavy rainfall. Sea levels will continue to rise for decades. The impacts of these changes on Hong Kong will be increased risks of flooding, droughts and dangerously hot weather. There will also be secondary and indirect impacts, including an increased risk of infrastructure damage, ground instability and landslides, and further increases in dangerously poor air quality periods. This will all impact on human health and quality of life and pose significant risks for the economy of Hong Kong.
It is important that Hong Kong begins to recognize the risks of climate change and puts into place both mitigation and adaptation measures now. Early anticipatory adaptation will be more effective and less costly than retrospective, emergency action. Although the scale of climate change risk is uncertain, it is increasingly clear that like many of the world’s leading cities, Hong Kong faces huge changes as a result of climate change and that adaptation measures must become a strategic priority. In Hong Kong adaptation will be needed to deal with the following issues:
- Extreme weather events including heavy rainfall, high temperatures, sea-level rises, tidal surges and super-typhoons;
- Flooding, overstrained drainage systems and groundwater pollution leading to possible disease, damage to property, soil degradation and personal injury;
- Decreasing water availability, periods of drought, and increased water evaporation;
- Heat waves and dangerously hot days with the potential to cause death, severe health problems and economic losses through damage to infrastructure;
- Health impacts and rising social inequities with the poorer suffering more health problems associated with heat exhaustion, respiratory problems and pollution effects;
- Threatened ecosystem services through impacts on wetland areas and other crucial ecosystems which affect species distribution, spawning, flowering, water retention and replenishment.
Hong Kong’s position as a world city could easily be undermined unless it tackles climate change and starts adapting to its impact. There is a role for all sectors of society including the government, NGO community and the private sector in ensuring that the economic prosperity of Hong Kong is protected therefore.
Hong Kong’s ability to remain as a world city will be in part a function of how it prepares for and adapts to climate change. It needs to be able to continue to provide a base for internationally competitive firms in the finance and business sectors as well as attract new investment. To do this, it will need to be able to train, attract and retain high quality human capital. If Hong Kong fails to address the impacts of climate change it can rapidly become an unattractive place to live and work impacting on the quality of the workforce available to employers.
If Hong Kong continues to want to be positioned as a world city it will have to demonstrate leadership on climate change issues. Located at the heart of a typhoon zone Hong Kong could position itself as a leader on climate change adaptation in the region as well. A new partnership between government, civil society and business will be needed if Hong Kong is not to lose its global position and competitiveness to other locations less at risk from climate change. To visit you can reserve your Hong Kong flights with Dial A Flight .
This report outlines how Hong Kong faces huge changes as a result of the impacts of climate change. Adaptation measures must become a strategic priority for both government and the private sector if the full impacts are not to impact on the competitiveness of the economy.
Key recommendations of the report include:
- The need for public education, community-based adaptation planning and incentives for businesses to put in place mitigation and adaptation measures.
- The need for more research into the possible impacts of climate change on Hong Kong and the most cost effective adaptation strategies that should be put in place. Such research should include risk assessments of the impacts of climate change on all facets of society.
- The need for the business community, in particular, to respond to both climate change risks as well as examine possible business opportunities by undertaking climate risks assessments, carbon foot-printing, developing climate change strategies and preparing a business continuity plan.
- The need for Hong Kong to demonstrate a degree of leadership on climate change issues if it is to maintain its reputation for a high degree of competitiveness and innovation. Other parts of Asia have already developed more sophisticated plans than Hong Kong to date.
- The need for government to convene a task force, which includes representation from business, civil society, the research community and climate change experts to begin to plan for climate change adaptation in Hong Kong.
Author: Richard Welford, CSR Asia and Hong Kong University
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