Climate Change

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, and it affects each and every one of us. Here you can learn about what climate change is, the ways in which it is occurring in Hong Kong, what the Government is doing to combat the problem, and how you can help too.

What Climate Change is

Climate change refers to the change in climate as a result of human activities that cause a change in the atmospheric composition, in addition to natural climate variability. Human activities cause increases in atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, mainly through burning of fossil fuels. The greenhouse gases act like a blanket in the atmosphere, trapping heat on Earth and keeping our planet warm. However, the human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have enhanced the greenhouse effect and caused the climate system to warm – a phenomenon commonly called global warming. This general rise in temperature in turn leads to a proliferation of other problems, such as more frequent heat waves and extreme rainfall events, increased global proportion of major tropical cyclones, rise of sea level, reduction in agricultural production, scarcity of water resource in certain regions, spread of disease, loss of ecological and environmental balance, etc.

Temperature trend (℃ per decade) over 1900-1980 (upper) and 1981-2020 (lower) (Image credit: IPCC AR6)

Global Warming Trend

Climate Change in Hong Kong

In line with the global trend, Hong Kong has been warming up in the last century or so. The number of hot nights is increasing while the number of cold days is decreasing. Apart from rising temperature, Hong Kong experiences more frequent heavy rain than before. The sea level is rising in Victoria Harbour.

Information about climate change and the situation in Hong Kong is available through the following links.

Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development WebsiteClimate Change ImpactsMore on climate changeHong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015Hong Kong Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric VehiclesClean Air Plan for Hong Kong 2035Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035

The Paris Agreement and Hong Kong

The Paris Agreement, which came into force on 4 November 2016, applies to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) as well. As part of China, the HKSAR has the duty to make its contribution in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement calls upon the Parties to cooperate with the private sector, civil society, financial institutions, cities and regions in order to mobilise stronger and more ambitious climate actions in the world.

Carbon Emissions and Hong Kong

The Government has set an ambitious carbon intensity target of 65% to 70% by 2030 using 2005 as the base, which is equivalent to 26% to 36% absolute reduction and a reduction to 3.3-3.8 tonnes on a per capita basis. It is observed that Hong Kong's carbon emissions have shown a decreasing trend since 2014.

In 2021, the Government announced Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050, which outlined four major decarbonisation strategies, namely “net-zero electricity generation”, “energy saving and green buildings”, “green transport” and “waste reduction”, that would lead Hong Kong towards the goal of carbon neutrality before 2050. It also sets out a more vigorous interim decarbonisation targets to reduce Hong Kong's carbon emissions by 50% before 2035 as compared to the 2005 level.

Climate Change Initiatives in Hong Kong

Net-zero Electricity Generation

Currently, about two-thirds of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions come from electricity generation.  To this end, the Government has seen to it that the two power companies use cleaner fuel for electricity generation.  While the share of coal in the local fuel mix for electricity generation has dropped significantly from one-half in 2015 to about a quarter currently,  the local fuel mix remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels such as coal (about a quarter) and natural gas (about one-half). 

As electricity generation accounts for about two-thirds of our carbon emissions, the Government has set net-zero electricity generation as one of the major decarbonisation strategies in the Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 promulgated in October 2021.  The Government will achieve the long-term target of net-zero electricity generation before 2050 by increasing zero-carbon electricity supply through renewable energy (RE) development, and exploring new energy sources for electricity generation and regional cooperation.  Details are as follows.

The Government has pledged to cease using coal for daily electricity generation by 2035 and will only keep it for providing backup support.  Coal will be replaced by natural gas and zero-carbon energy (such as RE) for electricity generation.

The Government will strive to grapple with Hong Kong’s geographical and environmental constraints in driving the development of RE by taking the lead in installing RE systems at various buildings and facilities, and developing more advanced waste-to-energy facilities.  The Government is further considering measures to facilitate the development of RE by the private sector and reviewing with the two power companies their proposals to develop offshore wind farms.  These measures will help to meet our target to increase the share of RE in the fuel mix for electricity generation from less than 1% at present to 7.5% to 10% by 2035, and further increase it to 15% subsequently through facilitating local projects, regional cooperation and joint ventures, etc.

Moreover, the Government will explore and try out the use of different types of zero-carbon energy for electricity generation with a view to adopting them in Hong Kong when the technologies become relatively mature. The Government will also explore ways to enhance regional cooperation to increase the supply of zero-carbon energy.  The target is to increase the share of zero-carbon energy in the fuel mix for electricity generation to around 60% to 70% before 2035, and to achieve net-zero electricity generation in Hong Kong before 2050 with the support of continuous technological advancement in using zero-carbon energy for electricity generation.

Reducing Our "Carbon Footprint"

The most direct and effective method of reducing our "carbon footprint", or the extent to which our activities produce greenhouse gases, is to enhance the overall energy efficiency of our society.

Promoting Energy Saving

Being an international financial and commercial centre, the majority of Hong Kong citizens’ daily activities take place in skyscrapers.  The resulting use of air-conditioners, lifts, lighting and various electrical appliances consumes a large amount of energy.  Buildings account for about 90% of Hong Kong’s total electricity consumption, and over 60% of our carbon emissions is attributable to generating electricity for our buildings. 

The Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance (Cap. 610) requires four major building services installations of new buildings as well as existing buildings undergoing major retrofitting (i.e. air-conditioning, electrical, lift and escalator, and lighting installations) to comply with the energy efficiency standards and requirements specified in the Building Energy Code.

The Government also promotes various green building and energy saving measures. An example is retro-commissioning, which systematically assesses a building’s energy performance with a view to identifying improvements in operations for energy saving.

To further facilitate the public in choosing energy efficient appliances and raise public awareness on energy saving, the Government has introduced the Mandatory Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MEELS) in 2008 through the Energy Efficiency (Labelling of Products) Ordinance, Cap. 598. Under the MEELS, energy labels are required to be shown on the prescribed products for supply in Hong Kong, China, to inform consumers of their energy efficiency performance.

Currently, the MEELS covers 11 prescribed products including room air conditioners, refrigerating appliances, compact fluorescent lamps, washing machines, dehumidifiers, televisions, storage type electric water heaters, induction cookers, LED lamps, gas cookers and gas instantaneous water heaters. The Government reviews the scope of MEELS and the grading standards from time to time.

To tie in with the sustainable and environmentally-friendly development of the Kai Tak Development (KTD), the Government is implementing a district cooling system (DCS) to serve the non-domestic facilities at the area. The DCS has commenced operation in phases since 2013. It is an energy-efficient air-conditioning system as it consumes 35% and 20% less electricity as compared with traditional air-cooled air-conditioning systems and individual water-cooled air-conditioning systems using cooling towers respectively. Due to better energy efficiency, the implementation of DCS at KTD will achieve estimated annual saving of 85 million kilowatt-hour (kWh) in electricity consumption, with a corresponding reduction of 59,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum. Other than this, the Government is building an additional DCS at KTD to cater for the projected increase in cooling demand.  Also, the DCS projects in Kwu Tung North New Development Area and Tung Chung New Town Extension (East) are also underway. The Government will study the feasibility of incorporating DCS in more new development and redevelopment areas, so as to promote energy efficiency and mitigate the heat island effect in the areas.

Carbon Emissions

In 2008, the Government launched a set of carbon audit guidelines for buildings. Users and managers of buildings can use the guidelines to assess the carbon emissions from their buildings, to explore room for improvement and to develop emission reduction measures so that their buildings can leave a smaller carbon footprint with less operating expenses through improving energy efficiency and waste reduction. The Government has been promoting carbon audit and taking the lead to conduct carbon audits for government buildings and public facilities. From 2017-18, bureaux and departments have started conducting regular carbon audits on major government buildings and will disclose their audit results. The Government also continues to work with the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited to introduce and promote the website on carbon footprint repository for listed companies in Hong Kong which was launched by the Government in December 2014. As of August 2023, more than 80 listed companies participated in this carbon disclosure initiative by disclosing their carbon management information through the website. More information related to carbon audit is available through the following links.

Carbon Footprint Repository for Listed Companies in Hong KongPractical Guide on Carbon Audit and ManagementExcel Template for “Paper Approach” Carbon Audit

Using Energy-efficient Transport and Cleaner Vehicles

In terms of transportation, the Government is aware that the use of our extensive and energy-efficient public transport system and the use of cleaner vehicles can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is committed to further expanding and upgrading our public transport infrastructure with an emphasis on railways, and encouraging the use of cleaner vehicles. Going forward, we will facilitate walking as well as continue to provide a safe, efficient, reliable and environment-friendly transport system with multi-modal choices that meets the community’s needs.

In recent years, the Government has been focusing on promoting new energy vehicles, as well as establishing ancillary facilities to accelerate the development of green transport in pursuit of zero-carbon transportation.  The New Energy Transport Fund (NET Fund, formerly named Pilot Green Transport Fund) was set up by the Government in March 2011 to provide subsidies for transport operators and charitable / non-profit making organisations to test green innovative transport technologies.  The scope was expanded in 2020 to support direct purchase of products of the technologies that have been proven relatively mature and suitable for local adoption. The NET Fund allocation is HK$1,100 million. The trials for electric commercial vehicles approved under the NET Fund include light goods vehicles, single-deck buses, double-deck buses, light buses, taxis, medium goods vehicles and motor cycles. In addition, they also include electric vessels and hybrid commercial vehicles, etc.

The Government in March 2021 announced the Hong Kong Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles (the Roadmap). The Roadmap will guide Hong Kong's future direction to attain zero vehicular emissions before 2050, and forges ahead with the vision of 'Zero Carbon Emissions ‧ Clean Air ‧ Smart City'.

Adapting to Climate Change

While Hong Kong has a strong foundation in climate adaptation, we are improving the internal knowledge-sharing and coordination framework to strengthen public sector infrastructure and works programmes. We will strengthen the urban fabric and slope safety. We will also integrate drainage and flood management projects with good landscaping so as to upgrade their amenity and biodiversity value. Furthermore, by reclaiming water, recycling grey water and harvesting rainwater plus implementing desalination, Hong Kong will increase its sources of water. We will implement suitable improvement works and formulate management measures for some coastal low-lying or windy locations in order of priority to cope with sea level rise, taking into account the latest development of climate change.

Climate Change and Ecosystems

The Paris Agreement recognises the critical importance of forests as carbon sinks and specifically calls for protection of forests, as well as maintenance of ecosystems. Enhancing ecosystems and appropriate landscaping in urban areas can help to deal with climate change. We will continue to protect and enhance the country parks, and have formulated a long-term programme to promote urban forestry and ecology, which will also help to cool the city as temperature rises as a result of climate change.

Joint Hands in Combating Climate Change

The impacts of climate change and the efforts to combat climate change touch on every part of our lives. The issue of climate change can only be sufficiently addressed with wide participation from the government, different sectors of the community and individuals. To align with our country’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, the Chief Executive announced in the 2020 Policy Address that Hong Kong would strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. The Government has set up an inter-departmental Steering Committee on Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality under the chairmanship of the Chief Executive to formulate the overall strategy and oversee the coordination of various actions.

Climate Ready @ HK

Greenhouse gas emissions make no distinction between local, national or regional boundaries, and the fight against climate change requires concerted global action. Hong Kong has always taken its international responsibilities very seriously. Hong Kong is a Steering Committee member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. This coalition of cities from different corners of the world has pledged to work hand-in-hand towards enhancing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions, with a view to combating climate change.

Assess My Carbon Emissions

The Government has launched the “Low Carbon Living Calculator” to help the public assess and learn how to reduce their carbon emissions in respect of clothing, food, living and commuting, thereby promoting behavioural change towards low-carbon living.


How You can Help Combat Climate Change

We believe that we do not have to think big to make a big impact. In Hong Kong, much can be done in our civic infrastructure and the way we live our lives to help combat climate change.

Here are some simple acts everyone can do to make a difference:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent lamps or LED lights;
  • Use energy efficient appliances (such as those with Grade 1 energy labels);
  • Turn off appliances when they are not in use;
  • Maintain temperature setting of air-conditioner at 24-26°C;
  • Use public transportation;
  • Recycle waste material as far as possible; and
  • Install a low-flow shower-head and take shorter showers.

The following links will take you to tips on what you can do to combat climate change and reduce your own "carbon footprint" at home, in the office and when you are travelling.

Tips on low-carbon livingTips on saving energyTips on green office managementTips on greener transportation
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Last revision date: May 2024
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