GreenTech Summit: Hong Kong must surmount skills gap, lack of collaboration to reach full decarbonisation potential

GreenTech Summit: Hong Kong must surmount skills gap, lack of collaboration to reach full decarbonisation potential

GreenTech Summit: Hong Kong must surmount skills gap, lack of collaboration to reach full decarbonisation potential

Green technology is crucial for decarbonising the transport and construction industries, but its adoption in Hong Kong faces challenges including a skills gap and the development of a sustainable ecosystem, according to experts at the Hong Kong GreenTech Summit 2024.

To support the development of greentech and pursue the city’s sustainability goals, Hong Kong needs an ecosystem that can bring together partners across the supply chain, Tony Lee, operations and innovation director of MTR Corporation, Hong Kong’s rail operator, said on Monday during a panel discussion on transport and logistics at the summit, which is part of Hong Kong Green Week.

“We need a very healthy ecosystem that can draw partners together, because we need to see a green supply chain with an up-, mid- and downstream,” Lee said. “When you scale [greentech] up, it has to be economical. We need all the different partners to play a role and come to a solutions-based outcome … from policymaking to new materials introduced and how economical the solution is. The solution needs to be financially viable.”

Policy support is also needed to aid the development of green technology, as it can help speed up adoption, Lee added.

(L to R) Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation Chairman Sunny Chai, Green Development Institute Chairman Ma Jun, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Innovation Technology and Industry Sun Dong, Chinese Academy of Engineering Academician He Kebin, and Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan, at the opening ceremony of Hong Kong GreenTech Summit 2024 at HKCEC on February 26, 2024. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Collaboration across industries and among different stakeholders is required to create an ecosystem that allows new green technology to become integrated into processes and therefore succeed, Michael Long, group head of sustainability at New World Development, said during a panel on buildings and construction.

“One of the big challenges we have around greentech is that the thinking and the technology has advanced very quickly, but the practitioners who are expected to be using and selling these materials in their products … their skill sets are still only emerging in these spaces,” Long said.

Making effective use of green technology is not simply a matter of “bringing the kit in”, he said.

“Most people in the construction industry [may] not know what low-carbon concrete is. There is a huge opportunity to build up skill and capacity in [greentech] from a construction perspective.”

The transport industry faces such a skills gap, Richard Hall, managing director of Citybus, said on the transport and logistics panel. “We still need people that understand the product and deliver the transport solution for us, [be it] cars or trains or buses. We’ve got a skills gap in Hong Kong. Sustainability is about having that labour supply chain.”

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Greentech is a talent-intensive industry, and Hong Kong has unique advantages in this aspect, Song Kai, chief digital officer of China Merchants Energy Shipping, said during the transport and logistics panel.

“In the past, the city’s talent pool has played a crucial role in … connecting the [Chinese] mainland with the world, whether in terms of commerce or fintech,” Song said. “The greentech industry can leverage on this basis.”

Fostering public, private and academic research partnerships is important to help expand the use of greentech in the construction industry, said Poman Lo, founder and faculty adviser of The Institute of Sustainability and Technology.

“Leveraging all the potential synergies with the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong does stand a very good chance of becoming a leading global greentech centre, and perhaps even a leader in the adoption of greentech,” said Lo, who moderated the buildings and construction panel.

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Greentech is the key to achieving net-zero goals, said Adair Turner, chairman of Energy Transitions Commission, an international think tank.

“Green technology is the absolute core of how we are going to build a zero-carbon economy across the world,” he said. “The simplest message of how we get there is that we electrify as much as possible: we electrify road transport almost entirely, we electrify residential heat and we decarbonise electricity production as much as possible.”

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