Hong Kong Getting Warm Heat Trapped in Poorly Designed Public Housing

Press release - 2006-10-10
The temperature is climbing higher and higher in Hong Kong. A survey by the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre (NWSC) and Greenpeace revealed that over 90% of the elderly respondents felt Hong Kong is getting hotter and hotter, 40% had even got sick because of the heat. Global warming is seriously affecting the daily life of citizens in Hong Kong. NWSC and Greenpeace jointly urge the government to formulate comprehensive policies to address heat problems caused by climate change, including improvement to ventilation system in public housing, and to restrict the level of greenhouse gas emitted by power plants, in an effort to combat global warming.

NWSC and Greenpeace interviewed 436 elderly of 60 or above in September. 92.6% thought that summers in Hong Kong are getting hotter, 30% felt dizziness and shortness of breath because of the heat, 24% complained that their sleeping quality had been affected and 21% experienced increased heart beats and chest tightness.

Besides, 28% of respondents need to take regular medication because of chronic diseases, within which 62% had exacerbation because of the hot weather, hence proving that the increasing temperature is hazardous to their health and life.  Since the sweating mechanism and regulation of body fluid become worse when one gets old, or due to the chronic disease, hot weather easily endangers life of the elderly. Hot weather may also cause heart attack to them.  As a matter of fact, every time the Hong Kong Observatory issues hot weather warnings, the number of elderly seeking help through personal emergency link greatly increases.

The Hong Kong Observatory confirms that global warming is directly leading to the rising temperature. The hottest years in Hong Kong lies after the post-1990 period, which is in line with the global trend. In addition to the hot island effect induced by urbanization, the heat problem is getting more serious.

Campaigner Frances Yeung of Greenpeace said, "Air-conditioning brings comfort to most citizens in Hong Kong, but also making them less sensitive to the change of climate.  Nevertheless, the hot weather is directly threatening the health of some social communities such as the elderly."  She demands the government to take the initiative and formulate policies against challenges from climate change.

Legislator Leung Yiu-Chung from NWSC cited the design of the new public housing as an example to explain how the government's ignorance to the rising temperature will pose threats to its citizens.  He said, "A gate should be added to each flat for ventilation and lowers the room temperature when designing the public housing but this was ignored. It should also increase the area of green belt in public housing estates, so that residents could naturally get away from the heat and reduce reliance on air-conditioning which is expensive and unfriendly to the environment."

The Hong Kong observatory predicts that by the end of this century, global warming will further pushes up the average temperature in Hong Kong by 3.5 degree Celsius.  NWSC and Greenpeace urge the government to immediately formulate policies to meet challenges brought about by climate change. This includes improvements to public housing design and restriction of greenhouse gas emission from the two electricity companies when the existing Scheme of Control come to an end in 2008. While power plants are the greatest source of carbon dioxide in Hong Kong, carbon dioxide released from burning coal and oil is the culprit of global warming, responsible for 70% of carbon dioxide emission.  The government should not ignore this problem and let the power companies continue to damage the environment.

Appendix 1: Survey on Impacts of Climate Change to the Elderly

Appendix 2: Climate Change and Hong Kong