Greenpeace is calling on the Hong Kong government to urgently draw up a climate change policy after a Greenpeace investigation showed that a record-breaking rainstorm last June cost the region HKD 578 million.
The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) said extreme weather events such as heavy rainstorms are expected to become more frequent and more intense as climate change worsens.
The environmental watchdog says that the costs of extreme weather events "will be a bottomless pit" if world leaders do not seal a strong climate change agreement at this December's United Nations climate change negotiations at Copenhagen. Greenpeace is calling on Chief Executive Donald Tsang to urgently draw up a climate change policy and a greenhouse gas emissions reduction road map for the city.
In a report entitled: "The 'Climate Change Bill': economic costs of a heavy rainstorm in Hong Kong", Greenpeace calculated that a record-breaking rainstorm on 7th June 2008 cost the region HKD 578 million (made up of HKD 300 million in insurance claims, public costs from 162 landslides, 622 floods and numerous traffic accidents, and the money lost in hundreds of flight delays and cancellations.)
The June rainfall was the heaviest in recorded history in Hong Kong with 301 mm falling on that day. The rainfall from 8am to 9am reached 145.5 mm, also the heaviest hourly rainfall on record.
Greenpeace sharply criticizes the lack of government action on drawing up a climate change policy, leaving Hong Kong society and the economy extremely vulnerable to the threat of climate change.
"This report clearly demonstrates that the costs of extreme weather events such as heavy rainstorm will be a bottomless pit if world leaders do not seal a strong climate change agreement at this December's United Nations climate change negotiations at Copenhagen," says Mr. Koo Wai Muk, Greenpeace Campaigner. "The Hong Kong Chief Executive must show his political commitment to tackle this crisis by urgently formulating a climate change policy, and keeping to his promise to transform Hong Kong into a low-carbon economy."
The calculations in the "Climate Change Bill" are both preliminary and conservative since they cover only the direct costs from the heavy rainstorm on that day. They do not take into account indirect costs such as losses incurred from traffic delays, losses to business from reduced man-hours. The calculations were reviewed by Ascent-Partners, a leading provider of valuation and advisory services.
Hong Kong ginseng and dried seafood shop owner, Mr. Wan Wai Leung said that on the day of the heavy rainfall he lost about HKD3 million in damaged stock after his shop was flooded by three feet of water in 15 minutes. "How do you avoid flooding that can happen in 15 minutes? How do you cope with that kind of volume of water gushing in?" he asked.
Traditionally Hong Kong's rainy season stretches from May to June. But this year the HKO issued its first "Amber Rainstorm" signal on 5th March. And according to the latest rainfall projections by the HKO, issued in March, rainfall in Hong Kong is expected to rise in the latter half of this century. The numbers of excessively wet years and excessively dry years are also predicted to increase.
Mr. Koo adds, "The HKSAR government is playing a delay tactic at the expense of the planet and the public. Even though the HKO has predicted an increase in heavy rainfall occurrences the government has still not drawn up a climate change policy."
Greenpeace is demanding that Donald Tsang attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December, and to commit a timetable for the delivery of a climate change policy. Such a policy should aim to reduce Hong Kong's greenhouse gas emissions by between 25% and 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, both using 1990 emissions levels as the baseline.