Last month, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) launched the Community ESG Programme, encouraging citizens to play their part in Hong Kong’s decarbonisation efforts by adopting sustainable practices, from cutting their plastic consumption and saving electricity to opting for cleaner modes of transportation to get around. Their progress and efforts will be monitored through the new mobile app Zero2.
In July 2023, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) launched the Community ESG Programme along with the mobile app Zero2 as part of a series of activities under the theme of “Creating Homes for Sustainable Living.” Hong Kong’s residents can now participate in decarbonisation efforts by completing missions on the app, which allows them to access exclusive rewards and discounts at selected eateries and shops.
The new Community ESG Programme, which saw over 10,000 Hong Kong residents registering online in the months leading up to its release, takes place from 1 July to 31 December 2023 and involves more than 20 housing units located across the city. About 100 guests – including members of the HKHS and the Council for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development – attended last month’s launching ceremony of the Community ESG Programme and new app at Prosperous Garden in Yau Ma Tei.
Walter Chan, the Chairman of HKHS, said the main goal was “to bring together the community and encourage the residents and staff of HKHS to develop green and healthy living habits.”
Hong Kong is striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Using its 2005 carbon emissions level as a base, the city also aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% before 2035.
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An App to Incentivise Sustainable Practices Among Hong Kong Residents
Citizens will be able to participate in the programme through the new Zero2 mobile app.
Users will be asked to join a community by entering their estate name. Each estate will be assigned specific tasks that its residents will have to complete before being allowed to move to the next level. By joining the community function on the app, users can also collaborate with their neighbours to complete different missions. Most assignments can be completed within two weeks, though tasks such as reducing gas and electricity bills might take a month or more.
By completing missions and playing educational games on the mobile app, users collect coins that can be used to redeem various rewards, including discounts and gifts from several partner merchants as well as points that can be used to level up the user’s account and unlock new missions.
Missions are divided into categories, including Recycling, Green Dining, Upload Utility Bills, and Walking. There are also games that educate on carbon reduction.
Tasks in the Recycling category include recycling items such as used clothing, plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminium cans. Residents are invited to dispose of their items in recycling booths, which are made available at the rental estates, scan the mission’s QR code, and place their items on the scale for weighing.
According to Zero2’s Carbon Savings Calculation Methodology, the amount of each recycled material earns different amounts of coins. The table also shows the total carbon emissions that have been saved by recycling each material. The app will keep track of the total amount recycled by each user.
As for the Green Dining category, users can earn points every time they bring their own reusable bag to grocery stores and retail shops and their own cups and cutlery when ordering takeaway food.
For other missions such as reducing utility bills, the Zero2 app will compare the user’s energy consumption with the benchmark against the targets of Hong Kong’s 2050 Climate Action Plan. Users are required to upload their bills onto the app or submit a hard copy before the deadline in order to complete the mission. After verification, they will be rewarded with coins.
Hong Kong’s Strategies to Reach Carbon Neutrality
Hong Kong’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 amounted to 34.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, after remaining stable at around 42 million tonnes between 2015 and 2019 and dropping to 31.5 million tonnes in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Electricity generation accounted for the largest part of emissions – nearly 63%, followed by transportation (18.7%) and waste management (8.4%).
In January 2023, the Environment and Ecology Bureau of Hong Kong (EEB) set up the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality in an attempt to make vigorous efforts to speed up carbon reduction. However, it is too early to assess its efficacy. In terms of finance, the government also put an additional funding of HK$200 million (US$25 million) into the Green Tech Fund, doubling the original provision.
The HKHS has worked with the Environmental Protection Department to develop the programme in a bid to increase the participation of Hongkongers in decarbonisation efforts as well as promote sustainable development in the city. The Chairman of the Council for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development, Dr Lam Ching-Choi, said that the citizen’s proactive participation is essential for Hong Kong to achieve its decarbonisation goal.
The HKHS adopted several energy-efficient design strategies to reduce the cooling and lighting demand in its residential buildings and has also worked to reduce Hong Kong’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by providing charging stations in its carparks to promote the use of electric vehicles.
A Good First Step, But Is It Enough?
Overall, the HKHS’ new ESG Programme is a good initiative to increase Hongkongers’ participation in carbon reduction efforts and raise awareness about sustainable living practices among the population. Indeed, while the government plays a crucial role in lowering the city’s carbon emissions through its efforts in promoting renewable energy sources, residents should also play their part. By getting educated about environmental issues and the potential environmental impact of their daily actions, they have the potential to push large authority figures and policymakers to take action.
Nevertheless, the new initiative comes with their fair share of limitations, mostly because they target just a small fraction of the population. As of right now, the HKHS’ programme involved just 20 housing units for a total of about 30,000 HKHS flats across the city. This accounts for a very small percentage of Hong Kong’s population of 7.3 million. In order to make the programme more, the HKHS should consider expanding it to more residential areas.
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