Hong Kong’s carbon emissions reduction plan needs “stronger action” on commercial vehicles

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More rigorous action is needed on top of the HK$2 billion electric vehicle parking scheme to address Hong Kong’s carbon emission issue.

In the 2019 Policy Address, Carrie Lam confirmed a HK$2 billion plan to install electric vehicle (EV) parking in private estates, in a move meant to further Hong Kong in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. According to the Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, this scheme is expected to bring 60,000 parking spaces online in the next three years and increase the number of electric cars in the city.

While this looks like a step in the right direction, Mr Simon Ng, Policy & Research Director of Business Environment Council (BEC), says that there are other components the government needs to focus on. “Commercial vehicles are emitting more carbon (and air pollutants) than private cars,” he claims. “Until the government takes stronger action to prioritise the use of electric commercial vehicles…carbon reduction potential will not be optimised through electrification.” Mr Ng also notes that the government needs to include other parts of the transport sector, such as local ferries and cross-boundary ferries, in the conversation of vehicle electrification.

The transport sector contributed to approximately 18% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions in 2016. A long-term decarbonisation strategy report by the BEC suggests tackling this issue through making changes to transport supply and demand. For the former, this includes an accelerated transition away from the use of vehicles powered by fossil fuels. “New energy vehicles should not necessarily be limited to EVs. The use of other fuels such as biodiesel…as well as hydrogen/methanol fuel cell technologies, should be thoroughly explored.” For the latter, this includes decarbonising the freight sector and designing HK’s urban space to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, which would encourage participation in zero-carbon travel.

Outside of the positive impact that carbon emission reduction would have for the environment, there are other great aspects to reap from this scheme as well. “Electric vehicles will help reduce emissions along the roads which are close to many recipients,” states Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong, “As such it will have medical health benefits.” Numerous studies have found that particulate matter in emissions are linked to decreased respiratory and cardiovascular health, adding another urgent incentive to decarbonise Hong Kong’s transport system.

Mr Ng thinks that as the scheme develops, the government should implement EV parking in buildings other than private residents, “with special focus on how to support the provision of charging facilities for electric commercial vehicles in the medium and long term.” Strategically locating charging points and making them easily accessible for use are important considerations to take with this plan moving forward.

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