Climate Change Communication in Hong Kong and Taiwan
Summary and Keywords
Taiwan and Hong Kong are similar in their determination to combat climate change. Not only have they set up objectives about carbon emission reduction, but they also have actively enacted laws and policies to achieve these goals. However, the public is not considered to play an important role in policymaking in either Taiwan or Hong Kong. On the other hand, these two regions differ in several aspects about how and why they are addressing this issue. First, Taiwan’s efforts to reduce carbon emission are voluntary, with the goal of gaining international recognition, whereas Hong Kong is obliged to engage in carbon reduction due to its subordinate status to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Second, while Taiwan is trying to reduce its reliance on nuclear power as an energy source, Hong Kong sees it as a useful way to cut down carbon emissions. Third, Taiwan has established new, specialized governmental institutions to integrate resources, whereas efforts taken by Hong Kong mainly revolve around existing government agencies. In terms of public opinion about climate change, the Taiwanese are much more concerned about the issue and know more about it than their counterparts in Hong Kong. Finally, the media in Taiwan pay more attention to climate change than the media in Hong Kong. This article suggests potential directions for future research in this area.
Climate change is an issue of concern for many governments and people around the world. Whereas a global framework is necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change, local governance of the issue is at least as important, if not more so. Therefore, this article focuses on the cases of Taiwan and Hong Kong, where the impacts of climate change are expected to be explicit and serious. The two locales share some similarities. For example, in anticipation of the potential threats, the two governments have set up goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enacted laws and policies to facilitate the achievement of these goals. In addition, public awareness of and concern about climate change is high in both places, which shifts the focus of climate change communication from persuasion to action promotion.
On the other hand, the two also differ in many aspects. First, due to its controversial political relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan fails to be recognized by almost all international organizations, including the United Nations. Facing these constraints, Taiwan needs to explore various pathways to involve itself in the international community, and the issue of climate change seems to provide a promising opportunity. By declaring its commitment to combating climate change, the Taiwanese government hopes to gain some international visibility and recognition. In contrast, political and diplomatic concerns serve less as a driving force behind the efforts taken by Hong Kong in response to climate change. Instead, Hong Kong’s efforts to combat climate change are strongly influenced by the policies of the PRC (Ng, 2012).
Second, en route to reducing GHG emissions, Taiwan and Hong Kong showed contradicting attitudes toward the use of nuclear power. Whereas the former does not consider nuclear power a viable option for cutting down the level of GHG and aims to decrease its share of power generated from nuclear energy, the latter plans to increase its reliance on it.
Third, the two governments respond to climate change in a structurally different manner. Taiwan has established new, overarching governmental offices in the interest of resource integration and as a demonstration of its determination. In contrast, Hong Kong mainly relies on existing government agencies. In light of these similarities and differences in the social, political, and diplomatic conditions, the way that climate change is communicated in these two areas warrants closer examination.
This article addresses the relationship between climate change and these two areas based on four dimensions: (a) vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change, (b) the level of GHG emissions, (c) government efforts and related policies dealing with carbon reduction, and (d) public perception of climate change and pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs). The text will discuss all four dimensions first for Taiwan, and then for Hong Kong.
Climate Change in Taiwan
Taiwan is an island country off the southeast coast of China, with a population of around 23 million people. Steep mountains cover two-thirds of its territory. The Central Mountain Range spans from the north to the south, dividing Taiwan into two parts. The west side of the mountain range is composed of flat terrain and is where most Taiwanese live. The total population density of Taiwan is 650.32 persons per square kilometer.
Its geographical location makes Taiwan prone to the influence of typhoons, which often form in the western Pacific Ocean. Research has found that the frequency of typhoons is likely to increase, and heavy rainfalls brought about by typhoons may increase as well (Chen, Chen, Liu, Lin, & Chen, 2007; Liu, Fu, Shiu, Chen, & Wu, 2009). The negative effects exerted by these weather features may be exacerbated by the mountainous nature of Taiwan because more mudslides or floods may occur (Chen et al., 2011). In the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index conducted by German Watch, which examined the extent to which countries have been affected by weather-related loss events, such as storms, floods, and heat waves, Taiwan ranked 35th among more than 150 countries (Kreft, Eckstein, Dorsch, & Fischer, 2016). The vulnerability of Taiwan to weather or climate-induced changes makes it necessary to examine how risks associated with climate change are communicated.
Irregularities in Weather or Climate Conditions
Several changes in weather or climate patterns have been observed in Taiwan. Longitudinally, research suggests that temperatures in Taiwan have risen by 1.4°C (2.5°F) between 1911 and 2009. These figures are equivalent to a 0.14°C increase per decade, which is higher than the rate of temperature increase experienced worldwide. When using data from the past 30 years as the basis of analysis, the temperature increase per decade in Taiwan became 0.29°C—a figure almost double that of the aforementioned trend.
In addition to the changes in long-term temperature, short-term extreme weather events have occurred in Taiwan in recent years. These events are worth mentioning because research has shown that people are more sensitive to unusual weather conditions. For example, in 2009, Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc on southern Taiwan. This storm produced about 2 m of rain, destroyed the homes of 7,000 people, and claimed more than 500 lives (Branigan, 2009). In early 2015, Taiwan faced its worst drought in 67 years, in which the total rainfall between October 2014 and February 2015 was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1947. The drought resulted in the launch of water-rationing regulations in several major cities, including Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s two largest cities. Around 1.16 million households were affected (Jennings, 2015; Sung & Wang, 2015). Furthermore, in January 2016, the capital, Taipei, recorded a temperature of 4°C (39°F), the coldest in 44 years and the second-coldest in history (Holmes, 2016). Although the cold front brought the Taiwanese the rare and exciting experience of snowfall, it also caused many casualties and serious agricultural losses islandwide, estimated at NT$132.15 million (US$3.93 million) (Chen, 2016).
GHG Emissions and Energy Use
The total GHG emissions by Taiwan in 2013 were 284,514 kilotons. This marked a 15% increase from the emission measured in 2000, which was 246,877 kilotons. This trend may have occurred because Taiwan’s economic growth in the past few decades has depended greatly on high-energy-consuming industries, such as manufacturing (China Post, 2016). For instance, the energy sector accounted for 89.15% of total GHG emissions in 2014 (TEPA, 2016a). However, the annual growth of GHG emissions in Taiwan has slowed in recent years, with negative growth recorded for the first time in 2009, at about ‒4%. In terms of GHG emissions per capita, levels reached a record high in 2007 and then dropped for two consecutive years to reach a record low in 2009. On average, per-capita emissions increased by 2.92% annually between 1991 and 2013 (TEPA, 2016a). Based on the definition by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the GHGs that the Taiwanese government takes into account include CO2, CH4, N2O, HFC5, PFC5, SF6, and NF3 (OECD, 2017).
Based on the 2015 Energy Statistics Handbook (Bureau of Energy, 2016), a significant share of the electricity generated in Taiwan came from burning coal (44.58%), followed by natural gas (31.38%). Nuclear power provided 14.13% of the energy, a significant drop from 26.53% in 1995. Renewable energy provided only 4.06% of the total electricity generated. Although this proportion is not much different from previous years, the amount of power generated (10,471.9 GWh) has almost doubled since 1995 (5,498.7 GWh).
The journal Nature ranked power plants worldwide by CO2 emissions in 2007. Among the top 10 power plants with highest CO2 emissions for that year, two were located in Taiwan—the Taichung power plant, ranked first, with about 40 million tons of emissions; and the Mailiao power plant, ranked sixth, with more than 30 million tons of emissions (Tollefson, 2007). It should be noted that the intensity figures (defined as kilograms of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity produced) for the two power plants in 2009 were 931 and 859, respectively, which was lower than many power plants in other parts of the world (CARMA, 2017). This suggests that the two coal-fired power plants may generate electricity in a more efficient way than expected.
Government Reactions to Climate Change
Because Taiwan is not officially recognized by the United Nations, it is not legally bound to abide by the Kyoto Protocol or the more recent Paris Agreement on climate change. Nonetheless, as part of the global community, Taiwan still shows its determination to address climate change by actively responding to many important international decisions on climate change. For example, soon after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992, the Taiwanese government established the Working Group of Global Environmental Change. When UNFCCC went into force in 1994, the Working Group was upgraded to an interministerial Global Environmental Change Policy Task Force, which was then expanded further to become the National Sustainable Development Commission in 1997 (Lin, 2000; Shyu, 2014).
In addition, Taiwan organized the first and second National Energy Conference in response to the passage and execution of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and 2005, respectively. In 2009, after the Copenhagen Summit, the third National Energy Conference was held and the National Greenhouse Gas Reduction Actions were formulated (TEPA, 2010). All these conferences and action plans addressed policies and directions for risk management in relation to climate change (Shyu, 2014).
More recently, Taiwan submitted an outline of the climate change actions that it intends to take via an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) before the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) in 2015 to show its commitment to working with the international community toward solving the environmental problem. The proposed INDC aims to reduce Taiwan’s emissions by 20% from its 2005 level by 2030 (Chen, 2015). This is in line with the objective set by the GHG Reduction and Management Act, which presents an even more ambitious plan of cutting emissions to half the 2005 level by 2050.
Several government agencies in Taiwan have been established exclusively to take on the issue of climate change. In addition to the aforementioned National Sustainable Development Commission, the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) was founded in 2004. The Taiwan Industrial Greenhouse Office was established in 2006 (under MOEA), followed by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Management Office in 2008 under the Taiwanese Environmental Protection Agency (TEPA), and the Committee for the Promotion of Energy Conservation and Carbon Reduction in 2009 under the Executive Yuan (Shyu, 2014; TEPA, 2010).
Several laws also have been enacted or modified to help Taiwan mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Among them, the GHG Reduction and Management Act, Statute of the Development of Renewable Energy, Energy Management Law, and the Energy Tax Statute serve as the legal framework for relevant policies. Except for the Energy Tax Statute, which is still under development, the other three bills have been implemented and will be briefly described next.
• The GHG Reduction and Management Act. TEPA first proposed a draft of the act in 2006. After nearly 10 years of discussion and negotiation, the Legislative Yuan finally passed the act in June 2015, and the president made the announcement on July 1. Serving as the legal basis for implementing measures in relation to GHG reduction, the act stipulates that the nation must work to cut CO2 emissions in 2005 by 50% as of 2050 (Lin, 2015). In comparison, countries in the European Union are aiming to reduce 40% of GHGs emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels (European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan, 2015). The act also calls for TEPA to establish a national action guideline and action plan for climate change. Both the action guideline and the action plan are subject to review every five years.
The GHG Reduction and Management Act also outlines the foundation for building up a local carbon market. Before the act was enforced, the government required emission sources that released more than 25,000 tons of GHGs per year to submit mandatory reports of their emissions to the appropriate authorities. However, industries also can participate in GHG reduction in a voluntary fashion. Since the act became effective, emission sources measuring above certain levels must apply for a permit. Designated emission sources also need to conduct an annual emission inventory, verification, and reporting. In addition, performance standards will be established so that emission sources that meet these standards may be rewarded. In the final stage, Taiwan will establish a cap-and-trade system in which industries will be assigned an annual quota of carbon emissions. Those that exceed the caps can purchase credits for additional emissions from other industries with leftover unused quota. Within this system, carbon allowances can be allocated freely, either through auction or for a fixed charge (Chien, Shih, & Hu, 2015; European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan, 2015).
Under the act, the revenue generated from the cap-and-trade system will be used to establish a fund specifically for GHG reduction and adaptation to climate change. The fund will sponsor various activities, including checking emission sources, giving rewards to businesses that voluntarily engaged in carbon reduction, and public education (Lin, 2015).
• Statute of the Development of Renewable Energy. In order to strike a balance between energy, environment, and economy, the Taiwanese government established the Sustainable Energy Policy Framework in 2008, which provided clear guidance for energy-related policies in Taiwan. The framework outlines future energy provisions and consumption based on the “two highs and two lows” principle. Here, “two highs” refers to high efficiency and high value (i.e., energy used should maximize the value that it creates), whereas “two lows” refers to low emissions and low dependency on fossil fuels and imported energy (TEPA, 2016c).
The Statute for Renewable Energy Development was developed based on the aforementioned framework and principles. It was passed in June 2009 with the purposes of expanding the amount of locally produced energy, enhancing the diversification of energy, improving carbon reduction, and promoting the development of the nation’s renewable energy industries. Specifically, the statute aimed at adding between 6,500 and 10,000 MW of installed capacity from renewable sources over the next 20 years.
The statute promotes renewable energy through the development of purchasing mechanisms, rewards, and deregulation. In terms of purchasing mechanisms, the state-run Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) is allowed to buy electricity generated by private renewable energy investors (Kuo, 2009). The statute also permits the government to reward those who employ renewable energy–generating facilities with development potential. When it comes to deregulation, the statute stipulates that corporations or people who import renewable energy–related equipment shall be exempt from customs duties.
The government’s encouragement of developing renewable energy seems to have produced some positive effects. The temperature in Taipei on June 1, 2016, reached 38.7°C (101.7°F), the highest temperature ever recorded in June over the past 120 years. However, that day also marked the first time in history that more electricity (3.493 million kW) was generated during peak hours from green sources than from nuclear power (3.458 million kW) (Huang, 2016).
• Amended Energy Management Law. The amendment of the Energy Management Law, passed in June 2009, designated MOEA as the central competent authority for drafting energy development guidelines that ensure a stable energy supply for Taiwan. The amendment focuses on two aspects: energy use in business buildings and the labeling of energy efficiency levels.
The law specifies that large gathering places, such as department stores, supermarkets, or hospitals, should comply with energy efficiency requirements. Because lighting and air conditioning combined account for more than 70% of electricity use in business buildings, these two areas of energy consumption were specifically addressed in the law (Global Legal Monitor, 2009; Li, 2010). In addition, manufacturers or importers of energy products, such as refrigerators, washing machines, or cars, are required to label energy consumption and efficiency levels (Global Legal Monitor, 2009; Li, 2009).
The law also stipulates that for the first time, investors in new or expanding energy-using facilities in certain sectors, such as electronics, steel, or petrochemical industries, are required to submit a prospectus of their energy use to the licensing authority. New construction or expansion can begin only after approval from MOEA (Li, 2009).
In addition to these overarching action frameworks and laws, several important policies have been made and implemented with the objective of conserving energy and lowering carbon emissions. For example, TEPA launched the National Greenhouse Gas Registration Platform in 2007 and invited local industries to submit inventory data voluntarily. By the end of 2010, 247 companies filed their inventory data, accounting for more than 73% of the nation’s carbon emissions (TEPA, 2010).
The Taiwanese government also approved the Million Solar Rooftop PVs program in 2012 to encourage the installation of solar panels. It aimed to achieve an installation capacity of 8,700 MW by 2030 (Crook, 2016). In 2016, the installation capacity reached 931 MW. Although it constituted only 2% of the total installation capacity, it marked a 40% increase from 2015 (Taiwan Power Company, 2016). The electricity generated by solar Photovoltaics (PVs) in 2016 was about 1,068 million kWh, which could meet the annual electricity needs of around 293,000 households (Taiwan Power Company, 2016).This policy was enacted as a signal of the Taiwanese government’s determination to turn the country into a green and sustainable economy in the future.
To further involve the general public, Taipower introduced a rate discount scheme in July 2008 to encourage reduced energy use. Consumers of electricity would enjoy a price cut of as much as 20% if they used less energy compared to the same period the previous year, and the discount rate may be raised to as much as 30% during the summer (China Post, 2009). In 2009, the total power saved amounted to 3.76 TWh, with rebates of NT$6.1 billion, which shows that both public and social institutions were active in participating in this energy conservation activity (Taiwan Power Company, 2010). However, under the scheme, those who “use electricity more but save less” actually earned more discounts than those who “use electricity less but save more,” which was interpreted as unfair. Therefore, after August 1, 2014, Taipower modified the rate discount program such that consumers earned a fixed discount of $84 NTD when the electricity saved was between 1 and 140 kWh. If the total electricity savings measured above 141 kWh, then consumers would be refunded $0.6 NTD per 1 kWh (Hsu, 2014).
Although some policies are in place to combat climate change, most of them focus on cutting GHG emissions at the individual level rather than targeting industries. Some scholars, therefore, criticize that the Taiwanese government has been consistently subsidizing the energy costs of industries for the purpose of economic growth (e.g., Chou, 2013; Chou & Liou, 2012). Furthermore, the risk perception of the public about climate change or environmental governance was not valued by the government as much as scientific expertise (Chou, 2007).
Public Perception and Behavior About Climate Change
Public awareness of and concern over climate change are both high. In 2015, 82% of people said that they had heard about the issue, and around 8 out of 10 Taiwanese (80.6%) were at least “somewhat concerned.” These numbers have been consistently high since 2009 (Hsu & Shih, 2015, 2017; Hsu & Yang, 2011b). Many people (67.9%) in Taiwan also recognize climate change as the most serious issue facing the world, valuing it more than other emergent issues such as the global economic crisis, epidemic diseases, poverty, food and water shortages, and so on (Taipei Times, 2015). More important, a survey showed that 72.2% of Taiwanese think that environmental protection may enhance economic development, suggesting that these two ideas are not necessarily contradictory (Chou, 2013).
However, Taiwanese also tend to perceive climate change as a distant issue. According to a survey in 2013, while 89% of people thought that global warming will exert a devastating impact on other countries, only about three-fourths (76.7%) of them thought that similar disasters will happen in Taiwan (Hsu & Shih, 2014). Taiwanese are also not very efficacious when it comes to solving climate change. Drawing upon the Situational Theory in the field of public relations, Yang and Hsu (2012) found that only 13.1% of Taiwanese could be categorized as “active public,” who are high in problem recognition, low in constraint recognition, and high in issue involvement. In contrast, the majority of Taiwanese respondents (63.5%) were just an “aware public,” who recognized climate change as a problem but felt that their behaviors were constrained by factors beyond their control. In other words, they did not see climate change as an issue that could be solved by their efforts.
People’s knowledge about the causes of climate change was mediocre. Although almost everyone (97%) was cognizant of the link between CO2 and global warming, many (84.7%) also mistakenly recognized the depletion of the ozone layer as a cause. On a battery of five factual knowledge questions, the average score was just 2.57 (SD = 0.63) (Hsu & Shih, 2015).
PEBs and Their Predictors
In addition to expressing high levels of concern, Taiwanese are reported to be active in practicing PEBs. Among a list of actions, recycling and turning off the lights when leaving a room are the behaviors that people engaged in the most (Hsu & Shih, 2015). A majority of people also reported carrying reusable shopping bags, limiting their use of air conditioning and paper, and purchasing energy-efficient products. However, Taiwanese people were less likely to help mitigate climate change by consuming less meat, bringing their own utensils when dining out, or taking public transportation—all actions related to people’s daily habits or routines (see Table 1).
Table 1. PEBs Performed by the Taiwanese Public
(N = 947)
(N = 1,649)
Recycling glass, aluminum bottles, plastic, or newspaper
Using fewer plastic bags or bringing one’s own shopping bags
Driving less or using public transportation and bicycle more frequently
Bringing utensils when dining out
Being a vegan or consuming less meat
In general, women and older citizens were more likely to engage in PEBs. In addition, the level of concern, perceived efficacy, and civic actions were all found to be positively associated with people’s behaviors (Hsu & Yang, 2011b). The role of knowledge was more complex. Knowledge about the cause of global warming showed a positive relationship with mitigation actions in 2009, but not in 2013. In contrast, the more knowledge people had about the consequence of global warming, the less likely they were to engage in PEBs (Li, 2009). It is noteworthy that environmental beliefs were not positively related to people’s actions and may be interpreted as the ceiling effect because most Taiwanese recognized the importance of environmental protection (Hsu & Shih, 2015; Hsu & Yang, 2011b).
In addition to examining the general public, researchers in Taiwan focused their attention on what affected students’ engagement in PEBs. For example, using college students in Taiwan as a sample, Chou, Pan, and Wu (2013) found that environmental sensitivity, self-efficacy, knowledge of action strategies, and issue involvement were all positive predictors of environmental action intentions. On the other hand, knowledge about global warming had a negative impact on students’ intention to take action. However, other studies on middle school students showed that knowledge can exert a positive impact on intentions (Chang, Kuo, Tseng, Huang, & Yu, 2014; Kuo & Chen, 2015).
One reason why researchers found contradicting results regarding the effects of knowledge may be that the concept was operationalized differently. Both Chang et al. (2014) and Kuo and Chen (2015) measured knowledge using a larger scope that entailed questions about how the climate system, policies, or renewable energy may be related to the issue of global warming. In contrast, Chou et al. (2013) focused specifically on the immediate cause and impact of global warming, similar to Hsu and Yang (2011b). Based on these results, it appears that when knowledge was measured in a broader fashion, its relationship with behavioral intention was more likely to be positive.
Focusing on one specific form of PEB (green consumption), researchers found that students’ behavioral intention was positively associated with their self-efficacy, attitudes toward green consumption, and the socioeconomic status of their family. Knowledge about green consumption was also related to behavioral intention at the bivariate correlation level (Wang, Huang, Tang, Yeh, & Tseng, 2009; Yang, Tseng, Huang, & Yeh, 2012).
Drawing upon the framing perspective, Shih and Lin (2016) found that framing global warming as a local issue was effective in triggering perceived issue relevance and negative emotions (e.g., fear and worry), which, in turn, could increase people’s intentions to take environmentally friendly actions. Similarly, based on the dual pathway model of collective actions, Shih (2017) found that people were engaged in both emotion-focused coping and problem-focused coping in response to climate change. On one hand, a local frame increased issue relevance, which gave rise to emotional arousal and behavioral intentions. On the other hand, action cues embedded in campaign messages were useful in heightening people’s knowledge of action strategies, which was an important antecedent of self-efficacy, response efficacy, and collective efficacy. These various forms of efficacy subsequently served as strong predictors of people’s intention to take actions.
Around half of Taiwanese respondents participated by discussing environmental issues with family or friends, and the proportions of people involved in this action were consistent across the time period from 2009 to 2013 (see Table 2). However, the Taiwanese were less likely to participate in other types of activities, such as contacting the government about environmental issues, donating money to an organization working on environmental protection, or joining environmental groups (Hsu & Shih, 2015; Hsu & Yang, 2011b).
Table 2. Civic Engagement
(N = 946)
(N = 1,650)
(N = 795)
Contacting the government about environmental issues
Donating money to an organization working on environmental protection
Discussing environmental issues with family and friends
Joining an environmental group
In response to policies aimed at mitigating climate change, people strongly supported the development of energy-efficient cars and renewable energy technology (Hsu & Shih, 2015). Most people were even willing to pay higher utility fees to substantiate the development of renewable energy or to pay higher taxes for environmental protection (Taipei Times, 2015). The majority of people also thought that the government should take action against energy-intensive, highly polluting industries, either by imposing carbon taxes or by discouraging their development (Hsu & Shih, 2015; Taipei Times, 2015). However, people did not consider nuclear power and the imposition of energy taxes to be effective measures for lowering carbon emissions (Hsu & Shih, 2015).
Hsu and Yang (2011b) found that knowledge about mitigation approaches, environmental beliefs, and civic participation shaped people’s policy support. Hsu and Shih (2015) examined predictors of six different policies related to reducing carbon emissions and found that these six policies were explained by different antecedents:
1. The development of renewable energy was positively associated with self-efficacy, a more liberal political ideology, and environmental beliefs, but was negatively associated with perception of severity of climate change.
2. Nuclear power was supported by people who had relatively conservative political preferences, higher trust in the government, and less participation in civic activities.
3. The more liberal and efficacious people were, the more likely they were to support restraining the development of high-energy-consuming industries.
4. Those who were older and less concerned about climate change, as well as people with strong environmental beliefs, were more supportive of imposing higher taxes on high-carbon-emitting industries.
5. People who were more knowledgeable about the causes of climate change, more liberal, and more trusting were more likely to favor energy taxes.
6. Regarding the development of energy-efficient vehicles, people who had a higher level of knowledge, efficacy, and environmental belief were more likely to support the policy, while men were also more likely than women to support it.
In sum, the Taiwanese were highly aware of and concerned about climate change. Their knowledge about the causes of climate change was high. The most prevalent PEBs taken by the Taiwanese were recycling and bringing reusable shopping bags, actions that may be driven by policies. Except for discussing climate change, other forms of civic engagement were quite low. Whereas self-efficacy tended to predict PEBs consistently, the role of knowledge was mixed. Furthermore, people’s attitudes toward various policies aiming to reduce carbon emissions were different, and the factors predicting the attitudes also varied.
Media Coverage of Climate Change
Climate change is a highly salient environmental issue in Taiwan and has attracted a great deal of media attention. One study found that the four major daily newspapers in Taiwan published more than 3,000 stories about climate change between 2006 and 2009, with 15.1% of the articles appearing on the front page (Hsu & Yang, 2011a). Media attention intensified afterward, with 1,524 stories published between 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 (Lee, 2013). The increase in the amount of news coverage in 2009 is possibly attributable to the impact of Typhoon Marakot, which wreaked havoc on southern Taiwan in August 2009 and spurred media concern over extreme weather events.
According to Hsu and Yang (2011a), journalists tended to focus on measures taken in response to climate change, accounting for two-thirds of the articles. Only 11.5% of the stories were about the consequences of climate change, followed by coverage about activities or human-interest stories (8.3%). Rarely did media touch upon what causes climate change and who should be responsible in this period.
Newspapers in Taiwan did not seem to question the occurrence and human cause of climate change. The newspapers often framed climate change in terms of “action” and seldom employed the “skepticism” frame. Such framing suggested the belief that climate change has been happening and actions should be taken to address the issue (Hsu, 2013). The lack of skepticism in Taiwanese media was further affirmed by another finding, to the effect that more than 60% of the news stories examined between 2006 and 2009 emphasized only one viewpoint—the notion of anthropogenic contribution (Hsu & Yang, 2011a).
With respect to news sources, studies found that government offices were the dominant sources when journalists covered the issue of climate change. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and business industries were the second-most-cited sources of information, followed by scholars or experts (Hsu, 2013; Lee, 2013). The predominance of government officials as news sources may partly explain why news stories were more likely to be framed in terms of “action.” In addition, although the “skepticism” and “catastrophic panic” frames were not used frequently, when they did appear, experts were often cited as the source of information (Hsu, 2013).
The dominance of the anthropogenic notion of climate change was also identified in online environments. Based on a study that investigated 142 websites in Taiwan with a primary focus on climate change, all but 4 affirmed the notion of climate change. Furthermore, whereas the selected online information often focused on risk governance at the individual level, it seldom touched upon values and policies in relation to climate change (Yang & Hsu, 2010).
In sum, climate change is a salient media issue in Taiwan. The theme of print news coverage was often about the actions taken to address climate change, with government officials being the most prevalent news sources. Most of the coverage, both online and offline, accepted the anthropogenic causes of climate change and rarely included the skeptics’ perspective.
Climate Communication–Related Activities
Public campaigns developed by the government or NGOs play an important role in promoting a low-carbon lifestyle. Because many governmental branches and organization committees have dedicated themselves to fighting climate change, it is difficult to introduce all of them here. Instead, this article will focus on government agencies or NGOs that are the most active in and innovative about communicating this environmental risk to the general public.
The Delta Electronics Foundation (DEF), the charitable arm of Taiwan’s largest power supply manufacturer, is perhaps the most active local NGO. Since its establishment in the 1990s, the DEF has been dedicated to raising people’s environmental awareness. In recent years, the DEF has tried to achieve its goal mainly by two approaches—hosting environmental education exhibitions and funding movie projects. One exhibition that attracted great public attention was the “Ring of the Celestial Bliss,” a giant, 270-degree circular lantern displayed at the 2013 Lantern Festival. The foundation built the lantern with recyclable, energy-conserving, and low carbon-emission materials to connect environmental protection to one of the most important traditional holidays in Taiwan (Delta Electronic Foundation, 2015). In 2014, the DEF also hosted the “Run for Water, Water for Run” exhibition to highlight the relationship between human life and water in the context of global climate change (Ho, 2014). Furthermore, the DEF also sponsored the documentary Beyond Beauty—Taiwan from Above in 2013, which was widely circulated in Taiwan. The documentary is comprised of aerial images that show the beautiful landscapes of Taiwan and the negative effects of overdevelopment (Chan, 2013).
The Taiwan Environmental Information Association (TEIA) is also strongly committed to raising people’s environmental awareness. Its web portal—the Taiwan Environmental Information Center (TEIC)—is the most important information hub providing environment-related news, feature articles, book reviews, and other materials. The TEIA not only encourages people to participate in protests, online petitions, and community environmental campaigns, but also creatively uses social media to involve the public. For example, it launched the Rubbish Food Challenge in early 2016, in which participants were asked to upload a video to Facebook about themselves imitating the ways that marine lives are affected by garbage (e.g., how sea gulls are strangled in fishing nets). After uploading the video, participants also needed to tag another three friends to enter the challenge, hence spreading the word. Furthermore, TEIA is also dedicated to environmental journalism and has offered training courses for people interested in serving as citizen journalists since 2006.
The Homemakers United Foundation (HUF) is another organization that offers resources for the general public to mitigate or adapt to climate change. For example, it launched an Energy Education Station in 2016, where people could learn through visual exhibitions and picture books about how electricity is used in the household and how energy can be saved. In order to expand the level of public participation, the foundation also offers training courses for people who would like to devote their efforts to energy education. Not only does the HUF provide opportunities for public engagement and practice, it also circulates information related to renewable energy and carbon reduction through multiple media platforms (e.g., a website, a Facebook page, newsletters, and press releases). For instance, members of HUF published articles in the organization’s newsletters about their visits to energy coops in Japan and European countries in the hope that more people in Taiwan can become aware of innovative measures for both conserving and generating energy.
In the government sector, public communication efforts are primarily taken by the TEPA. Although it has produced several TV commercials, most of the TEPA’s communication activities appear online. The TEPA recently consolidated its resources to focus its public communication campaigns on an online portal—the EcoLife website, which not only offers the information necessary for maintaining a low-carbon lifestyle (e.g., tips for reducing carbon emission in workplaces, kitchens, and wedding receptions), it also provides opportunities for people to practice. For instance, people can sign online pledges, inspect their own living environments for energy use or carbon emissions, and even initiate their own campaigns and invite other people to join (EcoLife, 2016; Hsu & Lin, 2013). Online interactive activities are also designed to facilitate input from the public. For example, people become eligible to enter a lottery after they like and leave messages in response to videos related to climate change on the EcoLife Facebook page.
Public communication programs by the TEPA also extend to the offline context. For example, the TEPA set up a booth at the 2016 Spring Tourism Exposition in Taipei in an effort to promote low-carbon traveling and dining. Furthermore, to bring the issue of climate change closer to people’s everyday lives, the TEPA chose the white polar bear and the indigenous Taiwan black bear as mascots to advocate for carbon reduction and energy saving (China Post, 2008). Images of these two bears appear frequently in various types of information campaigns.
In sum, the government has shown its determination to deal with climate change by establishing new offices to coordinate efforts from different agencies. The government has enacted policies to curb carbon emissions and to facilitate the development of green energy. The policies pertaining to renewable energy were considered especially successful (Hu, Lin, Fan, Lien, & Chung, 2016). However, existing policies in relation to carbon reduction focus mainly on individual behavior rather than on industry. In fact, scholars thought that current policies still favor high-energy-consuming industries (Chou & Liou, 2012).
Future Research in the Area of Climate Change Communication
Future research should be conducted to provide insights into the following areas. First, studies have showed that currently, most campaigns and media coverage focus on raising people’s awareness of and concern about climate change by emphasizing the negative consequences. Given that people’s level of awareness and concern seem to have reached its ceiling, public communication about this environmental risk may need to take different approaches. For example, future studies may explore the role of collective efficacy in shaping people’s mitigation behavior, as one public opinion poll has indicated that people were less confident in other people’s willingness to deal with climate change (Hsu & Shih, 2017).
Second, the government and many NGOs are employing social media as a platform to communicate with the general public. However, few studies have systematically examined what information is provided, how the public relationship is built, and what effects these new communication platforms may have. Future research can address these gaps to provide a better understanding about the effectiveness of existing communication channels and methods.
Third, research should be conducted to explore public opinion about climate change–related policies because they are closely related to the success of the national carbon-reduction objectives. In Taiwan, some policies are more controversial than others. For instance, public attitudes are less consistent with respect to using nuclear power, carbon trade, and raising electricity prices as a way to reduce carbon emissions (Hsu & Shih, 2015). More studies should be done to provide the government with proper recommendations regarding how to communicate with the public.
Fourth, although Taiwan does not cover a huge amount of territory, regional differences in public opinion and actions in relation to climate change exist. Future research should explore the factors contributing to such regional variations in order for the government or NGOs to develop customized or localized communication strategies.
Climate Change in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is located at the southeast of the PRC in the subtropic climate area, where the temperature and humidity are usually high during the summer. With a limited and hilly territory, Hong Kong is densely populated, with 7.2 million people residing in 263 km2 of land. The population density is 6,540/km2 across Hong Kong and 55,200/km2 in Kwun Tong, its densest area. These characteristics make electricity an important part of people’s daily lives in Hong Kong. First, the hot and humid climate increases the need for air conditioning. Second, the condensed nature makes high-rise buildings a necessary aspect of living. There are more than 50,000 government and private buildings in Hong Kong. More than 270 of these buildings are taller than 150 m, with over 50 buildings surpassing 200 m. Therefore, pumping water, lighting, and elevators constitute a large share of electricity use. In fact, electricity use constitutes more than half (54%) of the annual energy consumption in Hong Kong in 2015, and it accounts for 68% of GHG emissions in 2012 (Environment Bureau, 2015b).
Irregularities in Weather or Climate Conditions
The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) is the government’s scientific authority on climate change and has been tracking climate conditions in Hong Kong for more than 100 years. According to HKO’s records, the temperature in Hong Kong has increased steadily since 1885. The average temperature rise per decade between 1885 and 2016 is 0.12°C (32.07°F). However, if we examine data collected after 1987 only, the figure becomes 0.15°C per decade (Hong Kong Observatory, 2017).
HKO also found that extremely hot days and heavy precipitation events have become more frequent in the early 21st century, whereas extremely cold days (which it defines as a daily minimum temperature of less than or equal to 4°C) have become rarer. Although the chance of having extremely cold days is slim in the subtropical region, Hong Kong recently encountered such an experience. In January 2016, the same cold front that claimed about 90 lives in Taiwan also caused primary schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong to close for one day after temperatures fell to 3°C—a record low not seen in 60 years (Holmes, 2016).
A rise in sea levels is another possible impact that climate change can exert on Hong Kong. Under the high-GHG-concentration scenario, the sea level is predicted to rise by 1.07 m by the end of the 21st century. This issue warrants attention because a great number of buildings in Hong Kong are positioned along the coast. In 2008, some low-lying areas were struck by significant flooding due to the storm surge caused by Typhoon Hagupit (Environmental Bureau, 2015b).
In spite of these observed changes in climate patterns and blows suffered from extreme weather events, Hong Kong has been fortunate enough to avoid serious casualties and monetary losses. According to the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index, Hong Kong was ranked as an area with very low level of climate risk (Kreft et al., 2016).
GHG Emissions and Energy Use
Hong Kong’s annual GHG emissions increased from 33.5 million tons in 2000 to 43.1 million tons in 2012, according to the 2015 Hong Kong Climate Change Report (Environmental Bureau, 2015b). Historically, the annual emissions sank to a relatively low point at the beginning of the millennium and recorded an increasing trend thereafter. The emissions in 2012 rose slightly compared with the 2011 level, which may be attributable to the demand for cement in many infrastructure construction projects. The emissions in Hong Kong contributed to 0.1% of the world’s total. The GHG emissions per capita in Hong Kong ranged between 5 and 6.2 tons, peaking in 2006 and 2007. The GHGs that Hong Kong used in calculating its emission levels include CO2, CH4, N2O, HFC5, PFC5, and SF6.
Like Taiwan, Hong Kong’s energy is mainly imported from external sources. But Hong Kong’s energy consumption largely differs from that of Taiwan because Taiwan’s electricity is primarily offered by the state-owned Taipower company, while the electricity supply in Hong Kong has long been provided by private power companies, particularly the Hong Kong Electric Company Limited (HKE) and CLP Power Hong Kong Limited and Castle Peak Power Company Limited (referred to together as CLP). The two power companies have a total installed capacity of 12,645 MW in 2012. Three-fourths of the electricity needs in Hong Kong were met by local generation, whereas about one-fourth of the energy was imported from a nuclear power station in China (Environment Bureau, 2014).
In 2012, coal was the dominant source of energy in Hong Kong, making up 53% of all the electricity generated that year. Nuclear energy imported from China accounted for 23% and was the second-largest energy source, followed by natural gas (22%). The combined energy from oil and renewable sources contributed to only about 2% of the total electricity generated (Environment Bureau, 2014).
The Hong Kong government has made a plan to reduce the use of coal as a source of energy in order to lower future carbon emissions. Specifically, the Climate Change Strategies and Actions Agenda of Hong Kong (Environment Bureau, 2010) aim to cut the amount of coal-fired energy to less than 10% and rely more on natural gas (50%), renewable energy (3%–4%), and imported nuclear power (25%).
The commercial sector accounted for the largest share (42%) of energy consumption in 2012, followed by the transportation sector (32%) and the residential sector (21%). The industry sector used only 5% of the energy generated in Hong Kong. Therefore, the energy consumption pattern in Hong Kong is quite different from that in Taiwan, where the industry sector accounted for more than a third (37.08%) of the energy generated, with the service sector consuming only 11.03% in 2015 (Bureau of Energy, 2016).
Government Reactions to Climate Change
The PRC proposed its INDC on June 30, 2015, which aims to cut its carbon intensity to 60%–70% below the 2005 level by 2030. As Hong Kong is part of the PRC, the Kyoto Protocol was extended to Hong Kong in May 2003, which means that Hong Kong is obliged to fulfill the international requirements imposed upon China regarding carbon mitigation.
As a result, Hong Kong published the Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda in 2010, which outlined its emission reduction target (Ng, 2012). Based on this agenda, Hong Kong pledged that by 2020, it would reduce carbon intensity by 50%–60% of the 2005 level. Since 2010, Hong Kong has developed a variety of measures in order to achieve this goal, and as of 2012, carbon intensity has dropped to 19% below the 2005 level (Environmental Bureau, 2016). In the following sections, this article will introduce Hong Kong’s government policies and measures in response to the mitigation and adaptation of climate change.
In terms of mitigation, the Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda focuses mainly on four aspects: (a) revamping the electricity fuel mix, (b) improving energy efficiency, (c) promoting green transportation, and (d) turning waste into resources. These are described next:
• Revamping the electricity fuel mix: Coal is currently the dominant source of energy, accounting for more than half of the electricity generated in Hong Kong. The local government, therefore, aims to decrease its reliance on coal-fired power by increasing its use of natural gas and imported nuclear power.
• Improving energy efficiency: Hong Kong is well known for its high building density, with more than 42,000 buildings constructed on just 24% of the territory. These buildings consumed about 90% of the electricity generated. Therefore, the government promulgated the Building Energy Efficiency Ordinance (BEEO) in 2012, under which the Building Energy Code (BEC) specified the efficiency standards for four types of service installations, including lighting, air conditioning, electrical services, and elevators and escalators.
The government further tightened the BEC regulations in 2015. For example, the new code requires escalators to become idle when no passengers are detected. In addition, motion detectors would be installed so that lights would shut off automatically when an area has not been occupied for 15 minutes. The government expects to save 5 billion kWh of electricity through the enactment of BEC by 2025 (Information Services Department, 2015).
The Hong Kong government also mandates that manufacturers provide labels indicating the level of energy efficiency for five types of products (air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, compact fluorescent lamps, and dehumidifiers) because these appliances account for about 60% of residential electricity consumption annually. The grading standards of air conditioners, refrigerators, and washing machines became stricter in 2015 in order to save an estimated 300 million kWh of electricity per year, which is equivalent to a reduction of about 210,000 tons of CO2 emissions (Environment Bureau, 2015a).
• Promoting green transportation: In 2012, about one-third (32%) of the energy generated in Hong Kong was consumed by the transportation sector, with vehicular transportation being the major source of consumption (88%). The transportation sector also accounted for 17% of the total carbon emissions in Hong Kong in 2012 and was the second-largest emission source, behind electricity generation (68%).
In order to ameliorate the situation, the Hong Kong government employs several strategies. The first is to improve and expand on existing public transportation systems, especially the railway. The MRT Corporation not only covers a wide service area, but also carries an average of 5 million passengers per day. Several expansion plans are already underway. The second strategy is to promote green vehicles. The government hopes that by 2020, 30% of private cars and 15% of buses and freight trucks will be either hybrid or electric-powered. The third strategy focuses on the promotion of clean fuels, including biofuels and biochemical diesel.
• Turning waste into resources: The goal of waste management is less about carbon reduction than about creating another source of renewable energy for Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013–2022, published in 2013, and the Food Waste and Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014–2022, published in 2014, provide clear guidance on making better use of waste. For example, the government plans to recover and use landfill gas, as well as to recover energy from sludge treatment, recycle waste cooking oils for the production of biodiesel, and so on. With these measures, the per-capita waste disposal rate is expected to reduce by 40% by 2022 (Environmental Bureau, 2016).
Hong Kong not only developed a variety of measures at the local level, but also joined the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, initiated by 18 large international cities in 2005, to further demonstrate their determination to deal with climate change. The group later expanded to include more major cities, such as Bangkok, Seoul, and Beijing, thus changing its name to “C40 Cities” (Environmental Protection Department, 2007).
In terms of adaptation, the Hong Kong Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda identified five areas. First, monitoring systems, facilities, or services must be developed in response to the impact of climate change. For example, the government may design water management programs in anticipation of drought. Second, Hong Kong’s adaptation ability may be facilitated by strengthening existing or future infrastructures. Third, disaster management and emergency reaction should be planned in advance. Fourth, a substantial amount of research is needed to address the uncertainties about the local influence on climate change. For example, research should investigate what impact climate change may exert on the ecosystem, infrastructure, or the food and water supply; issues that are still uncertain at the current stage. Fifth, Hong Kong must adapt by establishing more public education and communication programs that aim to raise public awareness on the risks and impacts associated with climate change (Environment Bureau, 2010).
Public Perceptions and Behaviors About Climate Change
Public opinion surveys in Hong Kong show that people’s concern about environmental protection has been high for decades (Chan, 1993; Wong & Wan, 2011). This trend also has been observed more recently. According to a survey conducted in 2010 by the Public Opinion Program at the University of Hong Kong (HKU POP), 73% said that they are concerned about environmental protection and 96% agreed that environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility (HKU POP, 2010).
Nonetheless, public concern over climate change appears to be lower. Greenpeace commissioned the HKU POP to conduct three surveys about public awareness of global warming in 2005, 2006, and 2008 (HKU POP, 2005, 2006, 2008). Only slightly more than half of the respondents (53.3%) reported that they were at least “somewhat concerned” about the impact of global warming on Earth in 2005. Although public concern increased significantly to 68.6% in 2006, it slightly dropped, to 65.7%, in 2008. It is interesting to note that people were slightly more concerned about the impact of global warming on Hong Kong. But this level of concern also remained stable after experiencing an increase in 2006 (57.7% in 2005, 73.6% in 2006, and 70.5% in 2008). One of the possible reasons for this is that people in Hong Kong mainly associate the term environment with “sanitary conditions of one’s immediate living environment” (Lee, 2003, p. 20), rather than relating the concept to the larger ecosystem.
However, if climatic or weather variability can be related to people’s everyday life, they may become more concerned about their surrounding environment. For example, studies found that the more people felt the change in local weather conditions, the more likely they became concerned about climate change (Lo & Jim, 2015) or supported urban greening, a form of adaptation to climate change (Lo, Byrne, & Jim, 2017). To the extent that Hong Kong has not been drastically affected by natural disasters in terms of life or property loss in recent years, it is likely that people there do not have direct and concrete experience of the consequences of climate change. This may partially explain why Hong Kong people’s levels of concern are different between the more general concept of “environmental protection” and the more specific one of “climate change.” In spite of these findings, one study suggests that public concern over climate change may be increased by taking advantage of the social activism in other policy domains, such as political or institutional reforms (Lo, 2016).
Public knowledge about climate change in Hong Kong is very low. In 2005, about one-fourth of the respondents in Hong Kong (24.3%) reported that they did not know what causes climate change. More than one-third of people (35.4%) attributed climate change to air pollution or the depletion of the ozone layer, neither of which is recognized by scientists as a factor contributing to climate change. A small proportion of residents (3.7%) considered climate change a natural phenomenon (HKU POP, 2005). In addition, only 28% of people in Hong Kong said that they knew about the concept of a carbon footprint (HKU POP, 2010).
A more serious obstacle that may undermine the Hong Kong government’s effort to cut GHG emissions is people’s low level of perceived efficacy. Specifically, most Hong Kong residents see environmental protection as being at odds with their current lifestyle. For example, 77% agreed that being environmentally friendly means sacrificing certain living enjoyment and 58% thought that environmental protection will involve changing personal habits, which caused inconvenience (HKU POP, 2010). Lee (2003) also revealed similar findings. In his study, although people valued the importance of protecting nature, they also considered it difficult to maintain a close relationship between human and nature in practice because “Hong Kong people are born and raised in a high-density urban setting effectively divorced from nature” (p. 17).
To the extent that climate change has both scientific and political components (Lo, 2016), the role or competency of the government is critical in the process of risk communication. People in Hong Kong thought that their government can pay more attention to climate change. In an international survey conducted in 2009, people in Hong Kong had a mean rating of 4.67 (on a 10-point scale) when they were asked, “How high a priority does the government place on addressing climate change?” The mean rating increased to 7.19 when they were asked about the priority that their government should place on addressing climate change (World Public Opinion, 2009).
Furthermore, research has indicated that Hong Kong citizens have trust issues with their government when it comes to its competency to govern environmental issues. This so-called trust deficit is related to the lack of opportunity for genuine public participation that integrates people’s opinions into decision-making (Tsang, Burnett, Hills, & Welford, 2009).
In sum, Hong Kong citizens are concerned about climate change, but they care even more about other environmental issues, such as pollution. Despite the fact that the Hong Kong government has been making efforts to lower carbon emissions, many of its citizens still are not aware of the causes of climate change or the idea of a carbon footprint. In the meantime, people generally do not trust the government’s environmental governance and do not consider that climate change is being handled as a high priority.
Media Coverage of Climate Change
Research about how media in Hong Kong cover climate change is lacking. There is only one study that examined environmental news in general (Chan, 1999), which found that 1,134 news articles were published in three elite newspapers in Hong Kong between 1983 and 1995. With only 82.23 articles published per year, the three newspapers did not seem to consider environmental issues to be important. However, media salience of environmental issues has increased steadily, reaching a climax in 1992.
Chan (1999) also identified five major issues appearing in the newspapers: water pollution and sewage treatment, air pollution, environmental education, solid waste disposal, and green group activities. Issues related to climate change, such as green consumerism and natural resources depletion, emerged in the print media more frequently in the late 1980s.
To make up for the lack of literature about media coverage, the author of this article performed a quick search in the Wisenews database, which indexed major newspapers in Hong Kong. With the keyword of “climate change” in Mandarin Chinese, the author found a total of 1,186 news articles published between 2000 and 2016. Climate change received very limited attention before 2013, and the year 2015 marked the highest point of media coverage, with 534 articles.
In short, environmental and climate change news generally did not receive very much media attention in Hong Kong. However, media salience of the issue has increased more recently.
Climate Communication–Related Activities
In Hong Kong, the majority of public communication campaigns developed to combat climate change are about energy saving, as energy consumption accounts for more than 60% of GHG emissions. The largest activity of this kind is Energy Saving for All, an annual action campaign jointly organized by the Environmental Bureau and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. The main component of this campaign is the Energy Saving Charter, in which participants promise to fulfill three goals: (a) maintaining an indoor temperature between 24°C–26°C (75.19°C–78.80°C) during the summer, (b) switching off electrical appliances when not in use from June 2016 to May 2017, and (c) choosing energy-efficient appliances from June 2016 to May 2017. A total of 3,000 properties or institutions have signed up to join the charter, including shopping malls, residential buildings, offices, and schools (Energy Bureau, 2016).
The Energy Saving Championship Scheme is also part of this campaign. It recognizes and commends organizations that perform well in various aspects of energy saving, including the adoption of energy-efficient technologies, best practices in energy management, the promotion of energy-saving behaviors, and so on (Information Services Department, 2016).
Another large-scale energy-saving campaign in 2016 is organized by Friends of the Earth, a local NGO. The Power Smart Energy Saving Contest divides participants into five different categories: schools, organizations, property management, hotels, and restaurants. In each category, those who save more than 5% of energy compared to the same period last year are eligible to compete for awards. Since it was first launched in 2006, the contest has helped save 263 million kWh of electricity (Friends of the Earth, 2016).
The CLP also launched the Power Your Love program for the second time in 2016, which encourages energy conservation with the cause of helping disadvantaged members of society. For every unit saved compared to the same period last year, the CLP will donate an equivalent amount of electricity to households in need. Participants of the program are also eligible to enter a lucky draw for the chance to win a variety of kitchen appliances. In 2015, this program led to the conservation of 9.5 million kWh, equivalent to the power consumption of 2,000 households in a year (CLP, 2016).
In addition, the No Air Con Night is an annual campaign designed to lower energy use and GHG emissions in Hong Kong. The organizer, Green Sense, is a local philanthropic organization that aims to raise people’s environmental awareness. Green Sense chooses one day every year and encourages people to turn off their air conditioners on that particular date. The campaign was endorsed by several celebrities who appeared in short video clips to promote the activity (Green Sense, 2015).
In short, based on the information given here, it is clear that the government sector and the NGOs in Hong Kong are active in promoting a low-carbon lifestyle, with special focus on energy saving. Furthermore, public campaigns in Hong Kong are mostly implemented at the group or organizational level, rather than at the individual level.
Future Research in the Area of Climate Change Communication
Studies specifically related to climate change in Hong Kong are scarce. Among them, the effectiveness of public service announcement advertisements is the major topic of scholarly interest (e.g., Chan & Chang, 2013). Therefore, research in virtually every aspect of climate change communication is needed. At this point, based on the information provided in this article so far, the author will suggest a few areas that interested scholars may examine in the future.
First, more research may be developed to better understand public perception of climate change. In particular, because concern is an important antecedent to PEBs, it is necessary to understand why people in Hong Kong are less concerned about the issue than they are about other environmental risks, such as air pollution, and to come up with effective mechanisms to raise people’s concerns. Furthermore, it also will be interesting to investigate why people are not satisfied with the priority that the government has placed on climate change, especially considering that the government has organized several large-scale campaigns and has conserved a great amount of electricity effectively.
Second, administrative studies also may be conducted to evaluate the effect and effectiveness of campaigns organized by the government or NGOs. In spite of the abundance of campaigns, people’s levels of knowledge and self-efficacy about climate change are still low. Is this because they fail to connect the public communication activities, which are mainly about energy conservation, to climate change? Or do people have low self-efficacy because the campaigns emphasize more group actions than individual behaviors? Research examining these topics may benefit campaign organizers in terms of how future public communication efforts can be designed.
Third, research may be conducted to understand how the media represents the issue of climate change, including both traditional and online media, and the media channels that people use to acquire information. As mentioned earlier, studies about how media cover the environmental risks are lacking in Hong Kong. Research in this area may serve at least two purposes. First, it provides data about the salience of the issue in Hong Kong. Second, it provides foundations for understanding results obtained from public opinion surveys. For example, is the medium level of concern in Hong Kong attributable to the dearth of local media coverage of climate change; or are people dissatisfied with the government’s performance in addressing climate change because those campaigns rarely appeared in the media? Without studies about media representation, questions related to public opinion or policy cannot be adequately answered.
Although climate change is a global issue, risk communication and governance at the local level are equally important. Taiwan and Hong Kong serve as two interesting cases for in-depth examination. This is because both face similar challenges posed by climate change, but they show different patterns of public, media, and government reactions.
In terms of motivation, the Taiwanese government sees climate change as an opportunity for international visibility, whereas the Hong Kong government deals with the issue within a larger framework stipulated by the PRC. When it comes to mechanisms to combat climate change, Taiwan established new, specialized governmental institutions in order to integrate resources, whereas efforts taken by Hong Kong mainly center around existing government agencies. In the choice of clean energy sources, the two governments take different positions toward nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source. The current administration of Taiwan is trying to reduce its reliance on nuclear power gradually, but Hong Kong will increase the proportion of its energy generated by nuclear power. The ways that the two governments communicate with the general public about climate change are different. First, the public communication campaigns in Hong Kong focus primarily on energy saving, whereas those in Taiwan touch upon a wider variety of GHG-reduction measures. Second, public campaigns in Hong Kong were mostly implemented at the group or organizational level. In contrast, GHG-reduction activities in Taiwan mainly targets individuals.
Furthermore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have different economic structures, with the former relying more on industrial productions and the latter on the service sector. The two governments, therefore, need to target different social sectors in order to conserve energy effectively. As far as public perception is concerned, the Taiwanese were highly concerned about climate change and possessed a high level of knowledge on the subject, but Hong Kong citizens considered other environmental problems, such as air pollution, to be more important than climate change. This suggests that communication efforts in Hong Kong may focus on raising people’s concerns, whereas campaigns in Taiwan may emphasize other factors, such as self-efficacy, in order to promote PEBs. Finally, the media in Taiwan paid more attention to climate change than media in Hong Kong. Media attention may partially explain the different level of concerns in the two areas on the one hand, and may be used as an effective platform to increase awareness or risk perception on the other hand.
In spite of these differences, the two entities share some important commonalities. The citizens in both have mistrust for their governments, which may be partially attributed to the adoption of a more traditional mode of risk communication, where the opinions of elites or experts were valued more than the risk perceptions of the general public. It also may be related to the failure of the governments to communicate about other risk issues in the past. Therefore, more chances for public participation and integration of public opinions in the decision-making process were called for. To the extent that research about civic engagement in climate change is relatively scarce, this field of study will be necessary to restore public trust in government.
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