Since 2000, China's industrial output has grown 8 times, 350 million more people are living in cities, and agricultural production has more than quadrupled.i Meanwhile, carbon emissions per capita are up 180 per cent and air and water quality has deteriorated to the extent that the pollution levels breach global safety standards, according to the World Health Organization.ii
As part of China's climate commitment to the Paris Agreement, the country plans to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 at the latest, and to lower the carbon intensity of GDP by 60 per cent–65 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.iii Such green growth is already happening at a fast pace – China was the world's biggest clean-energy spender in recent years and its carbon intensity of GDP has improved by 25 per cent from 2005 to 2014.iv China is regarded as best placed to capitalise from the low-carbon transition.v
Within China, the Greater Bay Area (GBA) is home to 69 million people and is among the most economically vibrant and innovative areas. Many GBA cities (which include Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Macau and Hong Kong) are already implementing plans to ramp up transformation throughout manufacturing and services activities.vi Is GBA at the forefront of China's green growth?
The Centre of Sustainable Finance published a report by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA) in June 2018, which explored the sustainable financing potential of the GBA. The report concluded that the volume of green financing (e.g. green bond issuances) has so far been disproportionally low in the GBA when compared with the area's GDP contribution.
In February 2019, the Chinese government announced the Outline Development Plan (ODP) of GBA, stressing the following six key development aspects:
- Building a Modern Comprehensive Transport System
- Developing an Energy Security Protection System
- Strengthening Protection for the Security of Water Resources
- Expediting the Development of the Advanced Manufacturing Industry
- Expediting the Development of Modern Service Industries
- Taking Forward Ecological Conservation
The ODP confirms the strategic direction of green developments, and highlights the goals of achieving clean energy and energy saving, clean transportation, climate resilience and development and green finance development in the GBA.
In "The Turning Point: 2019 Update to Research Report on Sustainable Financing in China's Greater Bay Area – Opportunities for Growth" (the 'Report', available in English and Chinese), HKQAA explained how the key green development aspects in the ODP promises concrete sustainable financing opportunities, in particular in areas such as developing low carbon energy supply, improving water infrastructure and resilience against flooding, upgrading the energy efficiency of the manufacturing industry, building a clean transportation system, and developing the green finance market.
The Report also stresses the importance of Hong Kong for green growth of the GBA. In 2018, Hong Kong has committed to be a global green finance hub and has since rolled out a series of green finance policies and initiatives – starting with the establishment of an internationally recognised green finance certification mechanism and associated incentives, refined ESG listing rules by the Stock Exchange, green finance framework by the Securities and Futures Commission, to the most recent pledges by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in May 2019 to facilitate sustainable banking and to prioritise ESG-themed investments.vii
According to the Climate Bonds Initiative, the total value of green bonds issued in Hong Kong in 2018 (USD6.7 billion) has grown more than threefold year-on-year. With the capital investment required for a more sustainable GBA,viii Hong Kong is on its journey to further increase connectivity of sustainable finance flows between the GBA and the rest of the world.
iSource: World Bank data (2000-2017) – industry value added; urban population; agriculture value added; CO2 emissions per capita (2000-2014).
iiSource: World Health Organisation http://www.wpro.who.int/china/mediacentre/releases/2018/20180508-Greater-cooperation-needed-to-win-the-war-on-pollution/en/;
http://www.wpro.who.int/china/mediacentre/releases/2018/20180502-WHO-Issues-Latest-Global-Air-Quality-Report/en/; China-WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2016-2020.
ivSource: Bloomberg New Energy Finance:
World Bank data – China’s CO2 emissions kg per 2010 US$ of GDP - 1.652 in 2010 and 1.235 in 2014.
viiHong Kong as a global green finance hub:
Green Finance Certification by HKQAA:
ESG Reporting Guide by HK Stock Exchange:
Securities and Futures Commission’s Strategic Framework for Green Finance:
HKMA introduces key measures on sustainable banking and green finance:
viiiSee Hong Kong SAR Government’s Bay Area overview – Green Finance and Sustainable Development sections. https://www.bayarea.gov.hk/en/opportunities/finance.html;