Sustainability article in SCMP newspaper

Hong Kong sustainability consulting, John Herbert

I was recently interviewed by the leading English language newspaper (www.scmp.com) on the topic of sustainability, and greening business. just in case you missed the article (68OK PDF one page, published 8-03-2010)

– John Herbert,Consultant, Kelcroft
we help lower the cost of doing business in Asia

Climate Change COP15 – ADB advocating Transport sector?

The ADB (Asian Development Bank) issued a dire warning about climate change and the transportation sector, citing 23% of carbon emissions [link]. Without doubt transportation is important, however putting focus on transport and fuels overlooks a simpler long term solutions for commuters namely design sustainable environments from day one.

A classic example of a bad idea, and poor design is found here in Hong Kong. A new development was constructed, comprising concrete tower blocks with accommodation for some 3000 residents, it was named Tin Shui Wai (TSW) , and it was very poorly conceived idea from the start.

TSW has more in common with the now defunct 1960’s era concrete jungles built in the United Kingdom than modern 21st century design. It is a standalone estate, with hardly any local employment opportunities to speak about. It’s remote, so the workforce needs to use the public transport network to commute, on average one hour or more to get work. And if that image of a 60’s housing tenement was not enough, there are very few local amenities, so recreation and entertainment also requires transportation.

Lost Opportunity
The opportunity was lost when this area was designed. Instead of building endless blight the HKSAR government (owner of all land in Hong Kong) could have planned and built a sustainable environment, a self-sustaining city within a city.

We are told we live in a high-tech society, yet the majority still need to commute to work, the paperless office, and virtual commuting is still nearer to science fiction, than science fact.

A sustainable plan should have been comprehensive from the start and included local commercial buildings, shops, amenities, recreation, government buildings, etc. all providing local employment and thus eliminating the need and carbon footprint for transport.

In 2008 with rising unemployment the government finally realised its mistake, and has started to encourage employment, but it was too little too late. It did strong arm the HK Jockey Club and others, to hold job fairs in the TSW district to try absorb the excess unemployment.  However, had the government employed smart thinking at the beginning the social and economic problems could have been easily avoided, and also the related carbon emissions.

Sustainable Development
This is not rocket science, a sustainable planned environment named Masdar City [link] is under development in the Middle East, it follows this very principle putting home and work within reach and averting transportation and carbon headaches.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
lowering the cost of doing business in Asia.

Here is the full ADB article, I am sure they will change the hyperlink in the future so here is the text:

13 December 2009
Asia Pacific Must Act Now to Tackle the Scourge of Climate Change – ADB

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – The countries of Asia and the Pacific have a strong stake in a successful outcome to the current climate change talks in Copenhagen, senior officials of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Sunday.

Most have already prepared action plans to address both the causes and consequences of climate change.

The People’s Republic of China and India, for example, have announced comprehensive strategies, including renewable energy and energy efficiency ambitions, and have committed to improve land and forestry management, the officials said.

The Asia and Pacific region is expected to suffer significantly from the detrimental effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. This could seriously undermine the economic potential of the region and damage livelihoods.

ADB’s role is to work with its developing member countries to address climate change through financing and technical support for both adaptation and mitigation, the officials said at ADB Day, a day-long series of discussions organized by ADB and held in the Danish Capital.

Within the climate change agenda, a redirection of the transport sector’s development was highlighted as crucial.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda pointed to the urgent need for establishing a low-carbon, climate-resilient transport sector.

Transport is one of the largest and fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“No global solution can be found to the climate change challenge without real progress in the transport sector – especially in Asia,” said Mr. Kuroda. “Annual transport-related carbon dioxide emissions in Asia are estimated to double between 2006 and 2030, from 1 billion to 2.3 billion tons.”

Seminar speakers noted that many countries have begun to adopt clean fuel technologies, but the sheer increase in demand for private motor vehicles and other forms of fossil-fuel burning transport are outweighing the gains at this point. The transport sector faces a major challenge to find alternatives to fossil fuels that can both reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which would also help to ensure the energy security of developing Asian countries.

“There is therefore an urgent need for the countries of developing Asia to elevate this need within their national development agendas. This workshop is one in a series of events that are helping to raise awareness on these issues and to promote suitable mechanisms to support the development of a low-carbon, climate resilient transport sector,” said Mr. Kuroda.

High-ranking officials from government, development agencies, and academia took part in ADB Day, including Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rae Kwon Chung, Ambassador for Climate Change from the Republic of Korea, and Tariq Banuri, director of the sustainable development division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The workshop was held in conjunction with the UN-led negotiations on a new agreement to combat climate change, which have drawn more than 30,000 government leaders, policymakers, private sector and civil society experts and activists to Copenhagen.

A Big Ask

John Herbert Keynote speech at Energy Business forum June 2009

I know many have high hopes for the forthcoming treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, I don’t. In my view only an overwhelming ground swell of public opinion today has a chance to sway our local officials from the typical do nothing course.

Need evidence? Let’s review the Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development media output over the last two weeks. The Chairman, Mr Bernard Chan, recently commented upon the soon to be released green building consultation. Being the Government de facto sustainable development proponent one should expect a little waffle.  But No, it was an avalanche of warnings.  The chairman spent his air-time warning the general public about the dire consequences of asking for green buildings, including a thoughtful statement about “extra cost” of energy efficiency, without reference to the missing part of the puzzle – externalities (social cost).

To add insult to injury, the general public will not get sight of the consultation, until those renowned building energy efficiency experts Hong Kong’s “architects” and “developers” have given there views first no doubt to shape what will be finally issued to the public.  Yes, your read it correctly, we can’t have a consultation with prior approval.

It seems Europe is suffering too, here is a great little video to encourage action. enjoy.

~~

John Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited