Low carbon urban development: A roadmap for Hong Kong

Last week we launched our latest report, ‘Infrastructure: Shaping Hong Kong’. It included a series of recommendations which, if implemented, ICE believes will help preserve Hong Kong's future as Asia's world city.

The report sets out a long-term roadmap for developing Hong Kong's infrastructure networks
The report sets out a long-term roadmap for developing Hong Kong's infrastructure networks
  • Updated: 19 January, 2016
  • Author: Patrick Chan, ICE Regional Director Hong Kong

Hong Kong is already ranked number one among 140 economies in the world by the World Economic Forum for the quality of its infrastructure. In fact, the city has held the top spot for six consecutive years.

However, ICE believes that Hong Kong should take the opportunity to establish itself as a global leader in high quality, low carbon urban development.

We set out a long-term roadmap for developing Hong Kong's interconnected infrastructure networks, and offer solutions to support the regional government in realising its ambitious vision of low carbon living and sustainable urban development.


First, it became clear that the government and the built environment sector in Hong Kong should share a clear and ambitious goal to establish the city as a regional leader in high quality, low-carbon urban development.

Over the last 100 years, Hong Kong has already established itself as one of the most dynamic and exciting economies in the world. For the next phase of its development, the city can build on its past success by establishing itself as a global leader in this area.

Other cities around the world will be looking to this region for help in making the same transition from rapid urbanisation to high quality growth.

As a low-lying coastal location, this city is vulnerable to many of the impacts of climate change – from rising sea levels, to storm surges and other extreme weather events such as typhoons. By adopting a sustainable, low carbon approach to this city's future development, not only will it help mitigate the long-term effects of climate change on this city, but it will help promote action to reduce emissions for other cities too.

We are already starting to see this through the development of green technology – such as renewable energy and environmental technology – in the Hong Kong Science Park located in Pak Shek Kok. This centre is an important part of our infrastructure in support of the government's mission to turn Hong Kong into a regional hub for innovation and technology.


Second, we have set out an indicative roadmap for developing Hong Kong's infrastructure in the short, medium and long term.

To establish a roadmap will require consensus building across the city. The current review of the government's 'Hong Kong 2030' planning framework is an excellent opportunity to begin this process. In particular, we draw attention to the need for the Hong Kong government to look at other institutional structures being introduced by governments around the world to identify and deliver long-term infrastructure needs, and apply these to Hong Kong. The newly established National Infrastructure Commission in the UK, of which ICE President Sir John Armitt is a commissioner, is a perfect example.

But there are some actions that we believe should be implemented now.

In the short term, the government can make progress by focusing attention on the biggest drivers of carbon emissions, in particular by targeting improvements in the energy efficiency of Hong Kong's buildings and meeting more of the city's demand for electricity from renewables and low carbon sources.

Electricity generation has consistently been the largest source of carbon emissions, followed by transport, with electricity use accounting for 68% of greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for 89% of electricity consumption.

Of course, there are also many other solutions which are included in our report, such as deploying more smart grids and ICT initiatives in the energy sector, promoting non-motorized transport, public transport and low carbon fuel and vehicles.

Retrofit and renewal

We also need to reduce the need for wholly new build. We can do this by prioritising the enhancement of existing infrastructure through asset management, retrofit, and renewal.

Again, we can look to the UK to provide some good examples of how we can do this. The Cambridge Retrofit programme is a landmark community wide energy efficiency initiative to retrofit buildings in the city over the coming decades. This is a means for Cambridge to help contribute to the national carbon reduction targets.

Both public and private sectors are working together, with the aim of retrofitting 15,000 buildings up to 2020, 25,000 buildings from 2020 to 2030 and then an additional 10,000 buildings to 2040. It is estimated that this programme will contribute to a remarkable 20-30% cut to carbon emissions in the area.

There is no reason why Hong Kong cannot roll out similar, financially viable programmes to retrofit building such as this.

About the report

Commissioned as part of ICE's Shaping the World initiative, which helps turn knowledge into action for public good, the conclusions draw upon ICE's collaborative work with the Chinese University of Hong Kong – a joint endeavour funded by the Shaping the World fund that generated insights into how Hong Kong can achieve low carbon living in a dense urban environment. In particular, it draws out lessons from eight other cities: London, New York, Shenzhen, Tokyo, Singapore, Vancouver, Melbourne and Copenhagen.