Published: 16:12, December 9, 2023 | Updated: 17:04, December 9, 2023
HKSAR 'student ambassadors' aim high at COP28
By Jan Yumul in Dubai, UAE

(Left to right) Terence Tang, education manager at The Conservancy Association with COP28 Student Ambassadors Chung Pak Lun from La Salle College and Yau Hoi Wing from the Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School; and Lingli Ling, branding and development manager at The Conservancy Association, pose for a photo at Expo City in Dubai where COP28 is running until Dec 12. (JAN YUMUL / CHINA DAILY)

Two COP28 “student ambassadors” from Hong Kong aim to promote stronger climate action and raise awareness of the importance of fulfilling climate commitments when they return to the special administrative region from the United Nations climate change summit in Dubai. 

Chung Pak-lun of La Salle College and Yau Hoi-wing from Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School are in the United Arab Emirates as observers from non-governmental organizations after they were chosen under the COP28 student ambassador training program for their environmental action proposals.

They were selected to accompany a delegation from the Conservancy Association to attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Expo City. The convention, which ends on Dec 12, is also supported by the Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates in the HKSAR

They were selected to accompany a delegation from the Conservancy Association to attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Expo City. The convention, which ends on Dec 12, is also supported by the Consulate-General of the United Arab Emirates in the HKSAR.

Chung said they intend to learn more about the environment and the problems other countries and regions are facing, and were very lucky to have joined some forums.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong to showcase its green commitment at COP28

“When we return to Hong Kong, we’ll have a lot of dialogues and discussions and, most importantly, it’s about passing the torch to the younger generation for them to understand more about what it means to contribute to climate (action) and its importance,” he told China Daily.

The two student ambassadors plan to do a lot of promotion work in schools, including their own, and give media interviews.

“I think it’s good to bring out the consequences of not acting, as seen in many countries and regions. Many of the delegates have related horrible stories of climate disasters,” said Chung.

“And, it’s not something we should take for granted. I think we’re privileged, especially in Hong Kong, where people have yet to face the consequences. But, if they don’t act, they will. I think it’s our responsibility to inspire them by telling other people’s stories.”

Yau said she found that different people have different perspectives about the COP28 conference, especially climate change. “I’ve got to understand more about their culture, and I’ve learned new ideas, such as about technology, from them, including the methods they use to alleviate their problems.”

ALSO READ: Two HK student ambassadors to attend COP28 in Dubai

She said, compared to some developing countries in Africa, the HKSAR does not have severe climate problems. So, so people’s awareness of the effects of environmental challenges may be lower because “we don’t have much experience in serious flooding or droughts”.

“Hong Kong is a financial hub for business. I think Hong Kong may be able to make a bigger contribution in financing environmental protection,” she said.  

Chung reckons that Hong Kong needs to raise the community’s awareness of climate problems because, if they aren’t involved, they might not know much about the environment.

“Most of them see it as an uncontrollable problem. Obviously, it isn’t. The issue we’re facing is that people don’t believe that what they do could spark change,” he said.

“I think it’s easy for them to realize that the effort they make can make a difference, and that negligence could lead to adverse circumstances and, down the line, it’s not sustainable for us to live that way,” Chung added.

READ MORE: COP28 host UAE: World not ready yet to 'switch off' fossil fuels

Terence Tang, education manager at The Conservancy Association, said he was glad to see so many Hong Kong delegates at the event as the HKSAR government has a long-term plan to reduce carbon emissions and attain its goals before 2050.

“I hope this will be the benchmark for Hong Kong. Members of the public can do much better because Hong Kong is a commercial center,” said Tang, adding that too much focus has been placed on finance, money and entertainment.

He said, for Hong Kong people, protecting the environment may not be their top priority, but it’s improving. Chung said he had done a lot in cleaning up beaches, and had taken part in recycling campaigns.

“The problem is that it’s often very small in scale. There’re two problems involved. First, it’s not really sustainable because we need to get more people to organize these activities and join them. In the long run, the waste created far exceeds the amount we’re able to cleanup,” said Chung.

“Second, we’re unable to catch up with the industrial effects we’re facing because all of the machinery, the factories, even in terms of transportation, can cause a greater environmental impact than what we can do in cleaning up beaches. So, I think what we need is not only on the ground. The authorities must take the initiative. I think that’s really important.”

READ MORE: COP28 president-designate: Climate actions unity needed

The HKSAR government has said it will strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050, and the interim decarbonization target is to cut greenhouse emissions in the city by 50 percent before 2035, compared to the 2005 level.

The SAR government unveiled its Climate Action Plan 2050 in October 2021, outlining four major decarbonization strategies -- net-zero electricity generation; energy saving and green buildings; green transport; and waste reduction. The interim targets will contribute to realizing carbon neutrality for Hong Kong before 2050.