Asia as the “barometer for change” for green initiatives

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Chief secretary Matthew Cheung, however, does not forget to take the opportunity to promote the high-speed rail link project at the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017.

Photo: (Right-fourth) Hon. C Y Leung , Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; (Left-fifth) Dr Qiu Baoxing, Representative of Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development & Counsellor of Counsellor’s Office of the State Council of the PR; (Left-fourth)Mr Matthew Cheung, Chief Secretary for Administration, Government of the HKSAR; (Right-third) Mr Eric Ma, Secretary for Development, Government of the HKSAR; (Left) Mr WONG Kam-sing,Secretary for the Environment, Government of the HKSAR; (Right-second) Ir Conrad WONG, Chairman of WSBE17 Hong Kong OC; (Left-second) Sr CHAN Ka-kui, Chairman of CIC; (Right) Sr WONG Bay, Chairman of HKGBC and (Left-third) Mr Nils Larsson, Representative from the International Co-Owners attended WSBE2017 Hong Kong Opening Ceremony today. 

Photo Credit: WSBE17

The World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017 (WSBE17) kicked off its first day, starting with its opening ceremony on 5 June at the HKCEC. The WSBE17 is part of the highly influential SBE Conference Series, with this year’s theme of “Transforming Our Built Environment through Innovation and Integration: Putting Ideas into Action.” It is held once every three years in order to allow participants to share ideas, discussing the challenges and solutions that need to be addressed to create a sustainable environment.

The logo of the conference shows a butterfly over a green city, which represents the worldwide transformation of urban environments into sustainable systems. The butterfly is specifically the Troides Helena, which is a species unique to Hong Kong.

The ceremony began with Ir Conrad Wong, the Chairman of the WSBE17 Hong Kong Committee. Opening remarks were made by Chief Executive CY Leung and Dr Qiu Baoxing, Representative of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and Counsellor of Counsellor’s Office of the State Council of the PRC.

The event included three keynote speakers: Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Su Yunshan, and Christiana Figueres.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the Chief Secretary for Administration, presented the extensive number of building projects in Hong Kong that will contribute to building Asia’s World City towards a sustainable future. Such projects include the numerous extensions to Hong Kong’s transportation systems that are underway, such as the controversial Express Rail Link (XRL) that will reduce the amount of time it takes to travel from Hong Kong and Shenzhen to under half an hour, as well as taking a total of 48 minutes to reach Guangzhou from Hong Kong. He also discussed Hong Kong’s climate change efforts, in which the government’s plan is to decrease the energy intensity by 40%, in comparison to the levels in 2005, by 2025.

Su Yunshan is the Director-General of the Department of Science & Technology and Energy Saving on Buildings, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development PRC. He presented in Mandarin on the retrospect and prospect of green building in China.

Christiana Figueres, the Vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, began with a sardonic “thank you” to President Trump:

“Perhaps my most important thank you this morning is to Mr Donald Trump. So i would like to thank Mr Trump for putting climate change on the front page again […] Also thank you to Mr Donald Trump for having provoked an utter tsunami of support for the Paris Agreement and a deeper commitment for climate change than we have ever seen before.”

In her presentation she discussed the inevitability of decarbonisation on the world-wide scale, citing examples such as India, which will soon have all its government ports powered exclusively by renewable energy. There is also the electrification of the transportation system; China plans to release five million electric vehicles on the roads by 2020, and its charging infrastructure will be the greatest one in the world. She stated that “Asia is the barometer for change in the cityscape”, noting the influence that Asian cities such as Hong Kong have on the trajectory of sustainability projects all around the world. This theme took centre stage in the following speech given by AECOM’s Asia Pacific President, Sean Chiao, whose presentation was entitled, “Why the world needs Asia to get it right.”

Chiao’s talk highlighted the great care that needs to be taken in all sustainability efforts that take place in Hong Kong and beyond. As these sustainability projects progress, Chiao warned that Asia must take extra caution to conserve its heritage, as he claimed surveys found that Asia has suffered the worst damage of its natural heritage:

“We need to preserve our heritage, revitalise it, and keep relevant for our future generations. In the face of rapid urbanisation we must help cities keep their heritage.”

He concluded his talk with the words: “If Asia gets it right the world will be alright.” As the other keynote speakers mentioned, Asia is the gateway for change on the grand scale, and is a key player whose actions will influence the success or failure of the world-wide struggle for a sustainable future.

The conference spanned three days, from 5-7 June. Other information regarding the booths and sessions held at the event are available to access on their website.

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