Special Report – IMF links Macau’s future to climate change for the first time

IMF links Macau’s future to climate change for the first time

Macau Business | August 2022 | Special Report | Hato’s “ghost” – 5 years on

Macau’s population has not yet woken up to the local impacts of climate change. More Hatos to come is just one of the expected phenomena.

From the establishment of the Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (SMG) in 1952 through to 2020, the average annual temperature rise in Macau has been around 0.09 degrees Celsius, with 2019 the warmest year at an average temperature of 23.6°C and 2020 the second warmest with an average of 23.3°C.

In addition, this past May was the wettest month in Macau for 20 years according to the SMG, with each of the city’s precipitation testing stations accumulating a total of over 300 millimetres of rainfall within five days. The SMG also underlined that the rainfall on a particular day that May was the highest cumulative amount for a single day in May since 2013. Over 100 millimetres of rainfall was measured on 11 and 12 May, the most since a similar storm in 1996.

Analysing another criterion, that of the number of tropical storms, it can be seen in the information from the SMG that the annual average number of tropical storms affecting Macau is 5.3, a value that has increased from the first half of the 21st century to the second. Between 2000 and 2010, the annual average was 4.5. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 5.7 tropical storms hit Macau annually.

Finally, to stop at just a few metrics: according to World Bank data 4 out of 10 people in Macau live less than 5 metres above sea level (that proportion is 10 per cent in Hong Kong).

In this context, one can understand the fact that, for the first time, the IMF has conditioned its economic outlook for Macau not only on what is happening with the changes in gambling, but also on its high exposure to climate-related shocks.

Although there is still no mechanism that can measure climate risk and translate it into financial risk – a problem that several academics have been demanding is addressed – the IMF did not hesitate to recommend to the MSAR Government that public investments and prevention plans be increased to deal with the impact of climate change.

“Although Hato broke all historical records in terms of storm surge heights and flooded area, much worse scenarios could have been expected if had occurred at a higher tidal level” – study

Even the argument that a super typhoon with more devastating effects is very unlikely – since the government itself “declared Typhoon Hato to be the worst-case scenario and will use it as a criterion for designing new engineering measures for coastal protection” – falls apart when we bear in mind that “although Hato broke all historical records in terms of storm surge heights and flooded area, much worse scenarios could have been expected had it occurred at a higher tidal level,” according to the authors of Field survey of Typhoon Hato and a Comparison with Storm Surge Modelling in Macau (2019).

“There will be a greater risk probability that the flood with a higher return period encounters the tide with a lower return period, and the tide with a higher return period encounters the flood with a lower return period,” another study, from The Pearl River Hydraulic Research Institute China, suggests.

The missing report

In 2015, the Government of Macau created an Interdepartmental Group on Climate Change.

Its objective was to implement climate change mitigation obligations provided for by the United Nations and the Kyoto Protocol.

For a long time, nothing was known about the results of this working group. Then, about half a year ago, it was reported that seven meetings were held from 2015 to 2021, about one per year.

Details of these meetings were not disclosed, but the SMG announced that the MSAR government, among others, participated in the preparation of the National Communication of the Country, the Biennial Update Report on Climate Change in China and an Inventory of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in Macau.

“In conjunction with the national objective of combating climate change, the Macau SAR Government will, in accordance with the scientific bases of the study of the long-term carbon reduction strategy and the potential of the different sectors of Macau, optimize the total objective of reducing emissions and work out the relevant long-term strategy,” the SMG revealed

However, a report on climate change mitigation in Macau is still lacking.

In one of the rare Government interventions on the subject, Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng indicated last year that Macau will strive to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, in conjunction with the country’s environmental development strategies.

“We will scrupulously promote measures relating to peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutralization, and, taking into account the reality of Macau, we will implement the program on a programmed basis, harnessing clean energy and striving to reach the peak of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030,” Ho said.

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