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C40: Hammer In Hong Kong

By: Stephen A. Hammer, Ph. D

November 08, 2010

Miscellaneous notes from the C40 workshop, Hong Kong, November 5-6, 2010

Hong Kong event is not a full C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group summit, but a 'topical' workshop, with specific focus on buildings and electric vehicles (two separate speaker tracks). Several hundred attendees, including thirty of the C40 cities in attendance. Very large local contingent from Hong Kong government and interested stakeholders.

  1. C40 workshop piggybacked on a two-day Climate Dialogue event thrown by local Hong Kong group (Civic Exchange) focused on improving local knowledge of climate change, and what can/should be done to green Hong Kong.
  2. C40 workshop was very climate mitigation focused; adaptation wasn't mentioned as often as it could have been (although the topic was raised at the Climate Dialogue workshops preceding the C40).
  3. PlaNYC was a topic of considerable discussion in Hong Kong; it's clear that the plan and the city's efforts are well-regarded by other cities. NYC Building Commissioner LaMandri's keynote speech on the first day was repeatedly referenced on Day 2.
  4. JUCCCE's new Chinese language translation of the original 2007 PlaNYC report was a big hit with the locals; Mayor Bloomberg presented copies of the report to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and the Mayor of Shenzhen (an hour away in Mainland China, where mayor took a side trip to view a solar PV manufacturing facility). JUCCCE is very hopeful that the release of the report will have a positive effect in advancing our message that cities in China need to move beyond their silo-specific planning activities to craft a comprehensive, long-term growth and sustainability plan. We've long found that Chinese local government officials are fascinated by what NYC is doing, because the efforts are being undertaken by a city (almost) as large as theirs. We were thrilled to see so many locals at the conference reading the report; a total of 200 copies were given away overall. Download JUCCCE's Chinese translation of the PlaNYC report.
  5. Mayor Bloomberg's speech as in-coming chair of C40 hints at a new, more aggressive focus for the organization, a reflection of the tremendous growth and maturation of the group over the past two years. Much applause was directed at outgoing C40 chair (Toronto Mayor David Miller) for his leadership in helping to build the capacity and profile of the organization.
  6. Several Chinese mayors and vice mayors participated in a panel discussion at the C40, the first time I've seen them so vocal at a global event. They're clearly gravitating to the notion of the importance of low carbon city development in China; the challenge is in determining what that means in a Chinese context, where growth has been the paramount goal for the last 20 years. (See final paragraph below for related news.)
  7. I only attended the building sessions, but thought the presentations were quite strong. Wide diversity of cities were represented, with sessions covering new build, retrofits, financing, etc. Interesting format where they had preselected some experts in the audience (academics, architects, NGO representatives) to reflect on what the presenters had to say. Quality of the commentary was outstanding, supplementing and sometimes challenging ideas put forward by the speakers.

Big new ideas that I heard:

  1. I've often been told that each day, there are 2000 new cars on the road in Beijing. In a city of 18 million, no big surprise there. But the Mayor of Changsha (population 667,000) said that there are 1,000 new vehicles on the road in his city each day. Key lesson: cars are definitely a part of the new "China dream", despite efforts to reign in usage with expanded public transport system development.
  2. Professor C.C. Chan, President of the World Electric Vehicle Association, said that although expectations are that EVs will make up 7-12% of the global automobile market by 2020, in China, the adoption rate may reach 15-20% of all new car sales.
  3. Berlin moving ahead aggressively to deploy CHP technology around the city; surplus thermal energy will be pumped into the city's existing steam network. They're hoping to deploy thousands of units in the next several years.
  4. Officials from Tokyo talked about their new Cap & Trade system, the third mandatory C&T system operating around the world, only this one is focused specifically on 1100 commercial buildings and 200 industrial facilities in Tokyo. These facilities collectively generate 40% of all commercial and industrial CO2 emissions in the city. The "cap" established for the first five year period is a 6% reduction below the baseline year; the period 2015-2019 will require a 17% reduction below the baseline year. They hadn't expected to announce the 2015-2019 target for some time, but they were regularly approached by companies asking for this information so they could begin planning their long-term efficiency upgrade strategy. The fact that a city has developed its own cap and trade system is obviously the big news here... what type of devolution of power from central or state/provincial government would it take to make such a system a reality in more cities around the world?
  5. Responding to some of the presentations on retrofits, an audience member from the Carbon Trust in the UK mentioned they have found that most building refurbishment projects have actually resulted in GREATER energy use than before...a case of the "rebound" effect in action. They've isolated 24 issues cities should keep in mind when undertaking retrofit projects to minimize this problem. (I believe he said a report on the topic is available at
  6. Australia continues to refine the NABERS system, a voluntary rating system that assesses building energy efficiency. An important twist is that the system can differentiate between the base efficiency of the building core and shell, and the efficiency of the tenants in the building (helpful to landlords who object to rating systems that "blame" their building for the behavior of energy-hog tenants)

One final piece of news from China: McKinsey Consulting has partnered with Columbia University and Tsinghua University (in Beijing) to establish the Urban China Initiative, a new think tank that will focus on urbanization in China. They just released their first report, detailing a new Urban Sustainability Index examining the sustainability of 112 cities from across China. The report concludes that higher scores on the index are not incompatible with high growth rates. (That's a long-standing fear of many officials worried that sustainability initiatives will be a drag on local GDP growth). The report concludes that it's really a function of how committed local government is to this issue, and as this type of information becomes more widely known, cities seeking to remain competitive will likely need to ramp up their sustainability efforts.

Dr. Stephen Hammer is the Executive Director of the Energy Smart Cities Initiative for the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE). JUCCCE is a Shanghai and Beijing-based organization that provides training and technical assistance to Chinese local government officials on energy and climate policy matters. Prior to attending the C40 in Hong Kong, Dr. Hammer was in Beijing where he led a 3-hour workshop for 55 mayors from around China. The workshop was the third that JUCCCE has run this year; our last intensive workshop in June was 9-days long. Since May 2009, more than 210 mayors and vice mayors (representing cities with more than 400 million people) have participated in JUCCCE's training programs, which are conducted in partnership with the National Academy for Mayors of China. To reach Dr. Hammer, email him at

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