Hong Kong's famous urban skyline, its towering concrete skyscrapers, and the hustle and bustle of the densely-populated metropolis make Hong Kong a dynamic world city. In this environment, the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong is exploring greener possibilities for Hong Kong through various policy goals, outreach initiatives and internal efforts to reduce the Consulate's own carbon footprint here in Hong Kong. And what could be a better time than World Environment Day to reflect on the achievements already made as part of our environmental mission in the region!
Our Consulate's commitment to environmental sustainability starts with the mission itself. Two of U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong's overall goals are environment specific. First, the Consulate works to advance U.S. environmental stewardship and encourage sustainable economic growth. We do this by promoting U.S. policies on global climate change, global health, air and water pollution, energy security, marine conservation, and waste management in Hong Kong and Macau. Whether we are working with host government officials, academics, NGOs, or others, we work with partners to facilitate information access and coordinate environmental programs.
- Climate Change: In November 2010, the Consulate assisted the Hong Kong Government (HKG) to invite and host U.S. climate experts, researchers, and NGOs, as well as U.S. mayors, including NYC Mayor Bloomberg for the C40 Climate Change Conference.
- Green Technology: The Consulate's Foreign Commercial Service facilitated U.S. green technology companies to connect with potential buyers in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, especially during the May 2010 U.S. Secretary of Commerce's visit and through the November 2010's EcoExpo Asia trade show.
- Marine Emissions: We worked with the HKG and Civic Exchange to expand the voluntary Fair Winds Charter to reduce harmful shipping air emissions from ships using high-sulfur diesel while at berth in Hong Kong and facilitated information exchange with Guangdong port authorities.
- Waste Management: The Consulate brought U.S. EPA experts to Hong Kong to discuss e-waste and solid waste issues with the HKG.
- Water Management: The Consulate helped the HKG Water Supplies Department to locate and evaluate U.S. rapid testing technology for use by the HKG in ensuring safe water supplies.
- Community Outreach: The Public Affairs Section arranged for Consulate officers to present in local schools about how the U.S. is working to address climate change and other environmental issues. Popular topics have included U.S. Climate Change Policy and screenings of "No Impact Man,” followed by a group discussion on reducing one's carbon footprint.
- Exhibitions: U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong worked with our American Corner in Macau as well as the Chinese University of Hong Kong's United College Wu Chung Multimedia Library to feature an Earth Day video series addressing many different kinds of green issues and to create poster displays on topics like Earth Day.
- Social Media: Throughout the year, the Consulate shared environmental links, pictures, articles, and other messaging through its social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For example, we used Facebook to connect a World Water Day webchat with Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero's via Co.Nx on Consulate Hong Kong's Facebook page.
The Consulate's other environment-focused mission goal is to improve environmental sustainability in Consulate General Hong Kong's daily operations. This means we are constantly finding ways to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and promote environmental education among all staff. In short, we strive to reduce our Consulate's carbon footprint as much as possible. Our Consulate's cross-sectional Green Team has spear-headed many of these efforts.
Here are examples of the Consulate's environmental goals in action:
- Earth Hour 2011: The Consulate participated in EarthHour for its third year running. This time, in addition to shutting off the Consulate facility's lights, the lights on the common grounds of USG residences were also shut off with participation at employees' residences as well.
- Celebrating Earth Day: With opening remarks by Consul General Stephen Young and a special screening and discussion of John D. Liu's film "Hope in a Changing Climate,” the Earth Day 2011 in-house event was the culmination of a month-long series of environmental activities. The Consulate helped Mr. Liu amplify his message by holding additional screenings at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and two nonprofit organizations, the Asia Society and Civic Exchange.
- Joined the League of Green Embassies: In November 2010, Consulate General Hong Kong joined the League of Green Embassies, a U.S. Department of State initiative promoting international cooperation in energy efficiency and clean technologies. Consul General Stephen Young signed the Statement of Principles of the League of Green Embassies (The League), establishing the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong as the newest member of this collegial group, only the second mission in the EAP to join the League.
- Launch of Consulate Paper Recycling Campaign: After many months of working together, the Hong Kong Green Team and GSO procured and distributed recycling bins to all sections within the Mission. This paper recycling effort is anticipated to reduce Post's waste by over 60 percent.
- Outdoor Green Events: Consulate staff enjoyed several local weekend outings such as a marine conservation hike, a visit to a local organic farm, the Hong Kong Observatory, and the Mai Po Wetlands to look for migratory birds.
- In-Reach Film Screenings & Speaker Series: Lunch time film screenings and speaker series have become a great way to learn about environmental topics. Recent films screened include "No Impact Man,” “The End of the Line," and “Dirt!” Speakers on wetlands conservation, climate change and weather, and Hong Kong's biodiversity were also major hits with staff.
- Green Corner: This weekly newsletter was recently redesigned and continues to circulate through the Consulate community to keep everyone informed on the latest environmental best practices and events.
Although World Environment Day, June 5, is only one day a year, the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong works 365 days a year to promote environmental issues for the benefit of all.
Francesca Lichauco serves as Vice Consul in the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau. She also serves as the Consulate's Green Diplomacy Initiative Advisor.