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Hong Kong’s Climate Plan Leaves Out Emissions Caused By Meat

Hong Kong’s government has published its climate action plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The four-pronged plan predominantly targets transport, energy, and buildings, with no mention of the city’s food sector. Globally, food accounts for nearly a third of human-caused emissions, primarily due to the production of meat and seafood—and Hong Kong tops the list for meat consumption in the world.

It is not ambitious enough in its climate goals, the Hong Kong government’s plan largely ignores enormous contribution to global food-related emissions, which make up nearly a third of all anthropogenic GHGs, according to UN FAO data.

Most of the world’s food emissions come from the animal agriculture sector, which uses up 70% of all arable land and contributes 18% of total GHG emissions—more than that of global transportation combined. Aviation, for instance, makes up around 2% of global emissions.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest consumers of meat, with the average person eating around 5.5 times the international average. It is also the largest importer of beef from Brazil, where cattle rearing has driven the deliberate deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

In a 2018 study conducted by the Earth Science department of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the city’s rising consumption of imported meat and dairy products was highlighted as a major driver of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. Despite this, the Hong Kong government has continued to focus on “energy saving and waste reduction” as the primary way to cut back on its emissions

Hong Kong’s climate action plan is misaligned with what all other major global scientific organizations are encouraging food businesses to do. As a city that imports over 97% of our food, we rely on a heavily industrialized food system that degrades soil, harms waterways and depletes all of the Earth’s natural resources.

For Hong Kong, a city whose ecological footprint is the third-worst in Asia, it is imperative for the climate action plan to target the crux of the problem—the fact that “food remains the largest contributor of our ecological footprint.”

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