Maya de Souza is the Assistant Director for Policy Research at Business Environment Council, an independent organisation established by the business sector to promote environmental excellence.


A recent article explored the trends and shifts that show momentum towards a greener GBA. A greener more liveable GBA is possible if the responsible players grasp the opportunity and make it happen. This article examines which sectors and collaborations should be the focus of the efforts of serious parties moving the ball forward.


Not so many years ago, Hong Kong was confident that it lead the region in creating a safe and healthy environment. Shippers took a bold step in cleaning up emissions from shipping. For example, the iconic Fair Winds Charter (2013) promoted low emission shipping along China’s coastline. The Hong Kong Government supported cleaning up industry in the PRD, leading to the Cleaner Guangdong Partnership Programme.

But now, there is a note of despondency, a sense of falling behind. Shenzhen is electrifying its buses . The domestic emissions control area for the GBA introduced even stricter requirements than Hong Kong, not only requiring the use low sulphur fuel while berthed , but also when outside the harbour (but still in the emission control area).

Now is not the the time to give up and slip behind. As the dialogue at the Business Environment Council conference on 23 May showed, Hong Kong is well placed to take the lead in a number of areas that will help Hong Kong and the wider region in terms of clean air, clean water and soils and a stable climate.

Get real – 3 key sectors

Conference discussions looked at a range of important areas to tackle. Three, however, stood out.

The first is wastewater treatment and water recycling.  Guangdong province appears to have plenty of water and sewage may seem to be under control. But this isn’t quite right. As China Water Risk shows, because of it’s huge water demand, Guangdong water supply is at risk. It has failed to meet water quality targets because of insufficient wastewater treatment and low sewage discharge standards.  To bring the enormity of water scarcity home, the Hong Kong Observatory reports that 2018 has been the driest year on record since the famous drought year of 1963. But we have a reason for optimism: at least one local HK business is implementing wastewater management systems with minimal effluent, driven in part by the cost of sewerage connections, with water reused for gardens and other uses. These technologies can make a difference and can be exported to the GBA and beyond.

Another is energy management. Invest HK advises that many of the start-ups in the environmental field are in the sphere of energy management. You may wonder why buildings management systems – sensors and controls – are such a big deal. But in fact reducing carbon emissions in a cost-effective manner requires sophisticated energy savings from our huge commercial buildings as well as Hong Kong’s homes. These reductions come through improved design and innovative building fabrics. Another major factor is the technical management of cooling systems.

The third area is a major dimension of  green finance: “ESG investing”. This means taking on board the risks to assets posed by physical impacts from climate change combined with necessary policy changes to stabilize our climate, as well as  environmental and social risks. “ESG investing” is growing steadily year by year and is expected to become the norm among major corporations. But, it requires professional and analytical skills. Deciding whether a company is “climate-proofed”, meets the “social license to operate” or what is a green bond or a green loan is a complex matter.  HK is fortunate to have a rich cluster of expertise and talent, with strong networks for learning and sharing information.

There are many other areas that merit development: from professional services, including standards and audit systems, to integrated waste-to – energy plants that help attain multiple sustainability objectives. Hong Kong has a strong reputation on audit/assurance and has recently made significant headway on integrated infrastructure projects, for example the organic resource recycling centre in Siu Ho Wan and T-Park in Tuen Mun are two examples.

Overall we’d summarise the opportunities as: green infrastructure, professional services/the knowledge economy, and green finance.

Most importantly by taking the lead in the GBA, showing our contribution to China’s challenging and visionary mission of being an “ecological civilization”, HK stands to gain from cleaner air and water and a stable climate, but also by becoming  a respected voice in China on issues so critical for social and economic well-being.

At BEC’s conference on 23 May these ideas were explored with the help of speakers and panel discussion, as well as BEC’s survey how we were positioned to make the most of the GBA.


1 http://chinawaterrisk.org/opinions/map-to-hk-guangdong-water-governance/   http://civic-exchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Water-press-release-Eng-Final-.pdf

http://chinawaterrisk.org/opinions/integrated-wastewater-treatment-in-prd/

(Printer – R&R Publishing Limited, Suite 705, 7/F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road Central, HK)