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WWF’s Response to the HKSAR 2023-24 Budget

The Financial Secretary delivered the 2032-24 Budget today (22 February), announcing upcoming plans to relieve hardship and revive the economy. WWF-Hong Kong (WWF) recommends the government to allocate resources effectively, adopt a holistic nature conservation policy and promote green economy, for a sustainable and liveable Hong Kong.
Green City
WWF agrees with the green city and new energy transport strategies and is encouraged by the establishment of the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality and upcoming formation of Council for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Development. To ensure Hong Kong can meet its target for carbon neutrality by 2050, we recommend the government to integrate Nature-based Solutions in future strategies and achieve a target of at least 10% renewable energy (RE) by 2030, whilst ensuring that biodiversity conservation is fully considered.
Green Finance
WWF supports the transition towards green economy and establishment of the Green Technology and Finance Development Committee. Hong Kong has an advantage in developing green finance and should take a leading role in setting credible and effective industry standards to avoid greenwashing. For example, the government should provide sustainable finance taxonomies that clearly define the criteria for economic activities to be considered “green” or “sustainable” . This would not only help investors make the right decisions but also provide a baseline for companies to measure the environmental benefits of their activities. 
Further, we believe that an efficient and effective carbon market requires high levels of transparency. The government should ensure Hong Kong's carbon market will lead to increased mitigation ambition and high-quality mitigation outcomes while also preventing double counting of these outcomes. The government should also provide more support for conservation projects, considering more than just carbon credit generation. 
Northern Metropolis Development Strategy
As stated in the Budget, the government is preparing for the establishment of a Northern Metropolis Co-ordination Office to take forward related work. WWF hopes that the Office will be able to drive cross-bureau policy making and organise work among various departments to ensure smooth planning and implementation. WWF wishes to emphasise that the government should strengthen public participation in this process and build a two-way communication channel with stakeholders, including environmental groups.
According to the government’s “Strategic Studies on Railways and Major Roads beyond 2030”, the proposed Northern Metropolis Highway may pass through important wetland conservation areas.  Before implementing any overall plan, WWF urges the government to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment as soon as possible to identify priority sites for conservation in order to avoid adverse impact on the ecological environment.
Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands
WWF is concerned by the construction of 1,000-hectare Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands through reclamation and does not agree with this reclamation plan. Kau Yi Chau waters and nearby islands are home to many species of precious wildlife, including  finless porpoise (globally threatened), Bogadek's burrowing lizard (endemic to Hong Kong), hard and soft corals, sea pens, yellow seahorses and white-bellied sea eagles. Such large-scale reclamation would adversely impact the entire marine ecosystem as a result of build-up of pollutants and alteration of the hydrology of surrounding waters as well as reduced underwater oxygen levels which would expand the area of hypoxic waters.
The government should conduct marine spatial planning as a part of future development plans to ensure wise use of marine space and resources. WWF recommends the government to allocate sufficient resources to set up a task force to design and implement a territory-wide marine spatial planning initiative which considers the views of various stakeholders, so as to facilitate Hong Kong’s sustainable maritime development.
Protect Biodiversity
Unfortunately, the 2032-24 Budget fails to allocate any resources towards biodiversity protection or enhancement. At the latest United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), parties adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework which promises to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Hong Kong should fulfil its responsibility by updating its Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan as soon as possible and allocating resources to regularly publish a biodiversity indicator report for Hong Kong that setting out evidence of any gain or loss in populations or species of conservation concern. WWF’s last Living Planet Report highlights that human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss are intrinsically linked. The government should therefore prioritise biodiversity enhancement when forming policies to protect ecosystems and practise the “ecological civilization”  whilst simultaneously working towards carbon neutrality.

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