Engineering Net Zero Transition (by Environmental Division)

The Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries at the UN climate change conference (COP21) in December 2015. It was the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, to achieve the goal of keeping the average global temperature rise from pre-industrial times below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C . A report in October 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must fall about 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to keep within the 1.5°C target and avoid the effects of severe climate change.


At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held last December, nations adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to turn the 2020s into a decade of energetic climate action as possibly the last real opportunity for international coordination and collaboration to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement.  Agreed items include strengthened efforts to build climate resilience, curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide the necessary finance for both.


GHG emissions and worries about climate risk are continuing to drive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns to the top of the global business agenda, with emerging market and developing economies increasingly under the spotlight. These economies represent two thirds of global CO2 emissions, with China alone accounting for one third, and will generate the bulk of the growth in future emissions. The Hong Kong Government has committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, following China’s commitment of peak emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.


To achieve carbon neutrality, however, it requires substantial GHG reduction through appropriate technologies for production and the built environment, in addition to lifestyle changes, afforestation and carbon capture/storage processes. In our society, the engineering sector and especially the environmental professional is directly invested in the outcome of COP26 and is playing an important role in achieving net zero transition. Not only because engineering solutions are crucial for government and businesses to achieve net zero targets, but engineers could also influence climate strategy and policy, put it into practice and facilitate green finance.


In this context, Hong Kong needs to set a path towards achieving net zero around 2050 through a major shift in policy and technology. Electricity generation, buildings, construction and mobility are the major source of carbon emissions in Hong Kong. In these sectors, technological innovation and behavioral changes are the keys to significantly lowering carbon emissions. Hong Kong should also develop and deploy carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration technology that would play an important role on its journey towards carbon neutrality.


The Hong Kong Institute of Engineers Environmental Division successfully organised its annual forum titled “Engineering Net-zero Transition” on 28 April 2022. The forum provided a platform for professional engineers, industrial professionals, government officials and large sector representatives to discuss and demonstrate the engineers’ role in a new eco-system that could help Hong Kong’s net zero transition. With overwhelming response and attendance, it focused on innovative engineering solutions in three sectors energy, building and construction, and logistic and transportation, where the last panel session was co-organised with The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong (CILTHK).


Energy sector

To alleviate the effects of climate change, the energy sector’s participation is imperative and crucial in achieving carbon neutrality before 2050. There are many challenges to decarbonising the energy sector within the next decade, all of which are primarily linked to the availability of advanced knowledge and the maturity of zero-carbon technologies. However, as many industries have been increasing their electricity use, the energy sector worldwide will soon have to come up with a plan to balance the needs to improve its system capacity and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.


Renewable Energy (RE) and hydrogen are two of the most promising green electricity generation alternatives to date. RE, such as the traditional solar and wind power, will continue to play an essential role in assisting the energy transition process. That aside, waste-to-energy has also been gaining momentum. Not only can it relieves the burden of local landfill and reduces the cost of landfill, it also generates green electricity at the same time. Apart from RE, hydrogen has long been touted as a “zero-emission” solution. Many power utlities are betting on its boom and actively exploring ways to integrate it into the current power system configuration. 


Overall,  decarbonising the energy sector is no easy task and requires a multi-faceted approach. We need to evaluate energy issues from different angles before developing a solution that maximises benefits for our energy future.


Building and construction


With the current boom in sustainable investing, and especially the issuance of green bonds and sustainability-linked loans in the building sector in Hong Kong, the sustainability criteria for buildings have been improved with no reference to energy classes. The net primary energy demand (PED) of new construction must be at least 20% lower than the PED resulting from the relevant near zero energy building requirements that have already been mandatory in Europe from 2021. This reduction of the PED can be achieved through a more efficient design or by offsetting on-site or off-site renewable generation, or a combination of both. Off-site energy generation must be limited to district heating and cooling systems and local renewable energy sources.


In addition, the threshold for embodied carbon should be defined by the mid-2020s, with a methodology based on EN15978 requirements. The climate change adaptation technical screening criteria have also been set up with a focus on the climate resilience of buildings and activities that enable adaptation.


In summary, green building engineering may not have yet  met the envisioned goal, but that offers tremendous opportunities to fellow engineers to look for innovative solutions to close the gap.


Logistics and transportation


Logistics and transportation are major contributors to carbon and there are global effort to reduce emissions as a progress to Net ZeroTransition.  The HKIE is delighted to co-organise a panel session with CILTHKto review the programmes and challenges presented to this industry sector.  The invited speakers from DHL, the Aiport Authority Hong Kong, MTRC and Mairne Container Lines have shared their insight on the current programmes that carry an impact on our enviroment, and will also discuss the issues and difficulties observed.  It is vital to curb carbon emmision from a multiple perspective including but not limited to fuel, packaging and network optimisation.


By Ir Dr Shelley ZHOU from the Environmental Division of the HKIE

本網站採用Cookies工具來改善使用者體驗及確保網站有效運行。閱讀更多 Cookie 相關資訊