C40 Conference

Some highlights of the conference so far in photos:

sites/all/files/img_9911.jpgSecretary Yau (Hong Kong Secretary of Environment) with Panel of Mayors: Miller (Toronto), Bloomberg (New York) and Masondo (Johannesburg).

Key notes: low-carbon cities require a combination of software and hardware.
Hardware: systems
Software: legislation as well as working with developers and residents

sites/all/files/img_9913.jpgFollowed by a panel comprised of Mr Sun from the NDRC and four Chinese mayors/vice mayors: Zhang (Changsha), Tang (Shenzhen), Wang (Kunming), Lu (Nanchang)

These Chinese cities seem to be doing a lot of work in promoting low-carbon development. This includes introducing green building standards, extensive development of public transport networks, promotion of green industry and business, and, one which I was particularly impressed with, is the water pricing system in Changsha

And of course, what would an international conference be without them…

sites/all/files/img_9916.jpg Chinese (roughly): "Nuclear-powered electricity is risky/dangerous, do not expand its development"

Greenpeace's response to the Hong Kong government's proposal to increase nuclear-generated electricity from 24% to 50%.

sites/all/files/img_9917.jpg Hong Kong police strategizing below.

sites/all/files/img_9918.jpgI've always wondered how they manage these stunts…

Climate Dialogue: Day 2-  To tax or to trade – the ongoing debate

Too tired for a long post, so I just wanted to share this somewhat dramatic scene with everyone:


The stand-off between Richard Sandor, Founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange, and James Hansen, Head of NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies – a debate over the better pricing system: a carbon tax or carbon markets?

Climate Dialogue: Day 1 – US-China Renewable Subsidy War?


Today was Science and Policy day at the conference, and many interesting topics were discussed and debated. Here are a couple of highlights and a bit of commentary.

Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute showed us that a carbon tax can be extremely effective in shifting a country’s energy base, but few countries have made a firm commitment to implementing this system. He takes his home country, Sweden, for example, which has implemented an advanced carbon tax of 100 Euros per ton check, shifting the fossil fuel-powered heating industry to one of renewable energy.

sites/all/files/img_9898.jpgProf Steffen on biodiversity – for our friends at the CBD!

Will Steffen of the Climate Change Institute in Canberra brought up the point of overcommunication. He suggested that the ‘publicizing’ of climate change has steered us away from scientific discussion to “Hollywood and politics”.

This notion was echoed by James Hansen who posited that scientists are not sufficiently responding to the attacks from critics, to the detriment of the credibility of climate change science.

Scientists do not (and should not) think that is their job to communicate to the public and the media are not helping. We increasingly see people without scientific credentials attacking the issue of climate change, with receptive audiences who largely cannot distinguish between science, Hollywood and politics.

While the conversation on the panel seemed to sway between the responsibility of scientists and politicians – who should be responsible for the communication? – my mind focussed on our role, the role of NGOs and the role of youth. Internet savvy and most sensitive to the latest communication trends, I think youth are in the best position to fill in the void. Allow my inner business student to speak out: I think this is our comparative advantage, our niche market.

From the perspective of a Chinese organizer, I think this role of communication is even more pronounced. I think the youth in China have a critical role to play in communicating, both internally – raising awareness, particularly through school networks, and externally – bringing a realistic portrait of our country’s position (our efforts and our challenges in climate change) to the world.

Now, moving to what I thought was the most entertaining part of the day, a panel session on the “Risks of Crossing Planetary Boundaries”.


The panel, consisting of Johan Rockstrom, Director of Stockhom Environment Institute; Prof Gabriel Lau, Lead Author of AR5 of IPCC Working Group I; Pan Jiahua, Deputy Director at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (better known as a lead advisor to the Chinese COP16 delegation); Lee Boonying, Director of Hong Kong Observatory; David Drewry, Polar Medallist; Babara Finamore, director of NRDC China Program

Hu Tao, former Coordinator of the UN-China Climate Change Partnership Framework Program in Beijing sparked an exciting discussion when he raised a heated topic of discussion here in China: the US filing to the WTO against Chinese subsidies in renewable energy. He suggested, with good humour, that instead of attacking these subsidies, which have accelerated clean energy development in China and around the world, the US should increase their subsidies for its own renewable energy.

So perhaps the next US-China trade war should be a renewable subsidy war? As some of the panellists expressed, this may not be such a bad war to have! Dr Hansen further added that instead of sueing to stop renewable energy subsidies (which would effectively happen if the WTO claim is approved), we should sue to stop subsidies for fossil fuels.

Quite an exciting and insightful panel!

Climate Dialogue: Day 0 – Carbon offsets for the Great Power Race!

Jah Ying here, sharing exciting news on Day 0 of the climate conference. Looks like our top Great Power Race teams will be getting another special prize: carbon offsets! Also, check out my post for more info on top low-carbon strategies in Hong Kong corporations.

Got off the plane today and was invited to a seminar on corporate carbon strategies. I heard several presentations from CEOs and sustainability directors of top Hong Kong companies and organizations. Here are two that I was especially impressed with:

  • Loretta Lee, of the Loretta Lee Group, who has integrated extensive energy efficiency and waste management into her small company. She demonstrated that sustainable practices made business sense, even for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
  • Hong Kong Jockey Club, a huge organization with over 30,000 employees. Their sustainability strategy focusses on employee engagement and has implemented various channels within the organization to encourage creativ
    e employee-led initiatives.

The number one reason for businesses to implement sustainability strategies:

Their customers (and employees!) demand it.

This is reassuring. The incentives seem to be rightly positioned for a future of low-carbon corporations!

BONUS! I got a chance to speak with CarbonCare Asia's Chairman, Mr Chong, about the Great Power Race and it looks like we're going to have a very special prize for our top teams: carbon offsets! 

Indeed an exciting start to the week!

Preparations for Climate Dialogues in Hong Kong

Hi, this is Jah Ying, the 350 China Program Coordinator checking in from Beijing.

With 4 hours to go till my 8am flight, I'm zipping up suitcases and strategizing for a 4-day conference on climate change. Check out the website at: http://climate.dialogue.org.hk/index.php/en.

I'm especially looking forward to Day 3 & 4 (attendance by invitation only!), which gathers some big names (including Michael Bloomberg!) and focusses specifically on electric transport and green buildings. I'll be following the transport track, keeping a particular eye out for potential Beijing traffic solutions!

My tentative to do list:

1) Invite speakers to Great Power Race Green Workshop: "The Low Carbon Challenge" – especially targetting transport and energy sectors

2) Speak with Chinese officials, get their thoughts on Chinese youth participation and the role of NGOs (esp. climate) in China

3) Draw up a 'wish list' of attendees to talk to. Here are a couple on the list now:

  • the folks at the Department of Climate Change of the NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission), the body that designs our (sustainable) development strategy
  • Ms. Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group
  • Prof. Pan Jiahua, Deputy Director, CASS, Lead Author, IPCC Working Group III 3rd and 4th Assessement Report on Mitigation (I hear his name all the time)
  • Mr. John D. Liu, Ecological Film Maker, Founder of Earth's Hope, Beijing; Director of the Environmental Education Media Project, Senior Research Fellow, IUCN; in 2006
  • loads of mayors from Chinese cities – maybe we can connect them up with some of our Great Power Race teams!

4) Meet up with the 10/10/10 organizers in Hong Kong – they did an awesome job with over 200 volunteers creating art sculptures out of styrofoam boxes!

5) A couple of sharing sessions with students and teachers about climate work in China

A typical jam-packed conference schedule. Good training for Cancun!

And for those who are wondering why I am awake at this time of the hour (4.45am)… As my highschool Geography teacher used to say: "Procrastination is the thief of time"… and apparently, sleep.

>>Updates from Hong Kong in a couple hours.