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Hong Kong ‘must prepare for climate challenges’

CLIMATE ADVOCATE NATALIE CHUNG called for Hong Kong to prepare for more climate challenges and map out a resilient response.

Global warming is one of the most challenging issues that Hong Kong and the world are facing and it requires collective efforts by the government and various sectors to resolve it, she said.

Last year, Hong Kong’s summer was the hottest since records began in the late 1880s with a number of typhoons and rainstorms in the autumn. The worst was a “once-in-500 years” rainstorm that caused severe flooding and landslides.

Chung, who obtained a master’s degree on environmental change and management at Oxford University, founded social enterprise V’air Sustainability Education. She has strived to encourage local young people and citizens to learn more about climate change and participate in local eco-tours to foster environmental protection and sustainability.

Chung joined Dr Sylvia Earle, a renowned marine biology and ocean expert and a National Geographic explorer in residence, as a sole representative of Hong Kong at the Antarctic climate expedition last year.  

Chung has been a member at the Council for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development and Green Tech Fund Assessment Committee.

“Today we are already experiencing extreme heat; a lot of heat waves coming near summer time. And last year we still remember all the coastal flooding, storm surges and even inland urban flooding. And all these events reveal that Hong Kong is not as resilient as we have thought,” Chung said in an interview with Patrick Tsang On-yip on Friday Beyond Spotlights.

She stressed Hong Kong was a vulnerable city, being a low lying coastal community with a subtropical monsoon climate. The government needed to start building in robustness and resilience within city planning.

“In the past, no matter it’s the private sector or the public sector, we’ve always been looking at climate change mitigation which is decarbonizing our economy,” she said. “I think climate change is actually one of the most challenging problems faced by humanity and it requires a collective effort by all these different sectors. And I believe cross-sector collaboration is key to solving this issue.”

She said in terms of the government, high top-down policy is needed. But at the same time, the civil society has so much power in terms of building up bottom-up capacities. In terms of the business sectors, they are able to give different incentives and trigger some positive feedback loop that can bring the flywheel effect.


Also, Chung has founded V’air Sustainability Education which uses eco-tourism and nature-based experiential learning to inspire behavioral change among students, young people and citizens.

“We thought of different solutions to reduce Hong Kong’s carbon footprint. And one of them is actually by tackling aviation emissions because we know that Hong Kong people love travelling abroad but at the same time, it brings about a heavy carbon cost [by taking flights],” she said.  

[Watch the interview below, or scroll down to read more of this article.]

Chung said V’air Sustainability Education was working toattract more Hong Kong people to stay locally and explore biodiversity here as well as in the wider Greater Bay Area as there are so many nature parks and spots that Hong Kong people underuse.

“In Hong Kong, we have 70% of our land as green belt. So that’s a lot of natural resources for us to learn from,” she said.  


Meanwhile, Chung had the chance to embark on a polar expedition.

“So in the expedition, we were hoping to champion some climate ocean resolutions because traditionally we’ve been focused a lot on land-based solutions like growing more trees and preserving the forest. But we have been ignoring the ocean’s immense role in controlling climate change,” Chung said. “For instance, it’s producing oxygen for us. The ocean is absorbing around 20-30% of all carbon emissions. It’s the nature’s largest carbon sink. So if we’re destroying the oceans, we’re also destroying the climate at the same time.”


In the programme, Chung also shared a special item which has significant meaning in her journey. It is a mountain-shaped gift made by Chung’s mother for her graduation as one of the gifts.

“It’s also like a pin where I can pin it on my very graduation gown. So it says ‘Natalie’ which is my name. I think it holds a special meaning in my heart because I’ve always been a big hiker. My parents started this passion of mine because they started bringing me to different mountains and trails since I was young,” Chung said.

“We did barbecues at different country parks and also walking around, looking at the monkeys. So I love the mountains a lot and I think the mountains and the terrains of Hong Kong represent myself and my journey,” she added.

For Chung, life is like hiking. There are uphill and downhill moments but it is all worthwhile in the end.

“What fuels my climate passion from the journey, I think, sometimes we feel very hopeless in the climate adventures because we think that the government is not listening. We think that we’re not doing enough,” Chung said. “But ultimately we see how different people are benefiting from the work that we’re doing and this keeps us going and the beauty of the community, the beauty of the scenery are able to fuel us and keep us more hopeful.”

All images from Friday Beyond Spotlights.

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